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Key Takeaways

  • Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code deals with persons of unsound mind.
  • Unsoundness of mind is included in the general exceptions.
  • Sections 328 to 339 of the Code of Criminal Procedure covers provisions regarding accused persons of unsound mind.


When a person is incapable of understanding things, they are said to be of unsound mind. Unsoundness might result from stupidity, insanity, intoxication, mental decline, etc. According to Section 84 of the IPC, nothing is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, due to mental incapacity, is unable to recognize the nature of the act or that he is doing what is either illegal or against the law.

In other words, an act carried out by a person who is not of sound mind is not regarded as a crime and is included in the list of "General Exceptions." Here, the compassionate perspective toward those who are mentally ill is upheld.

The 1973 Code of Criminal Procedure aims to provide a structure for a more efficient administration of justice. Since the CrPC deals with the arrest and trial of the individual, fairness is crucial to determining when a person is lawfully deprived of their liberty.

Accused individuals of unsound mind are covered by provisions of CrPC Chapter XXV, Sections 328 to 339. These rules are best for those with mental illnesses.

Criminal Procedures for Mental Insanity

The criminal provisions under the CrPC for a lunatic or someone of unsound mind are as follows:

The procedure under Section 328 in the event that the accused is of unsound mind

In accordance with Section 328 of the Act, the magistrate is required to ensure that the subject of the inquiry is examined by a medical expert if they consider the subject cannot defend themselves or is mentally ill.In the absence of a defense, the magistrate will hear the prosecution and review the evidence. Until the person's unsoundness is corrected, as shown by medical evidence, the magistrate must postpone the process for a specific period of time.

Case Law: Mohan Lal @ Ranjan Mohan Bhatnagar vs The NCT of Delhi [CRL.A. No.350/1997]

In this case, the evidence on file demonstrated that the appellant was evaluated by doctors prior to the start of the trial by the learned Metropolitan Magistrate in proceedings under Section 328 CrPC and found to be a man of unsound mind. The order in this regard was passed, and the trial did not begin until he was declared mentally fit, according to the evidence on record.

Section 329– procedure when unsound person is tried before the court

In accordance with Section 329, the magistrate must have the subject of the trial reviewed by a medical specialist if he feelsthat the accusedis of sound mind and incapable of self-defense. In the absence of a defense, the magistrate will hear the prosecution and review the evidence. Based on medical evidence, the magistrate shall record his decision and adjourn the hearing.The fact of insanity will be considered throughout the proceedings.

Case Law:Kulwinder Singh v. State of Haryana[ 2007 (4) CTC 769]

In this case, it was held that because the application was submitted during the trial and Section 329 of the CrPC deals with trials of mentally incompetent people, it would be relevant.

Section 330- releasing accused of unsound mind who is pending trial

No matter whether the offence is bailable or not, the court may release the offenders if they are deemed unsound or incapable of presenting their case during the investigation and trial (Sections 328 and 329), according to Section 330 of the Act. In other words, the magistrate must also give bail if the crime cannot be released on bond. The accused must be held in a facility where he may get medical attention if bail is denied.

Case Law: Kanhaiya v. State of U.P. [Crl Appeal No. 856 of 2001]

In this case, the learned Additional Sessions Judge ordered that the accused be sent under a detention warrant to the mental hospital in Varanasi, where the accused-applicant was being treated, as noted in his decision. The learned Additional Sessions Judge noted that a doctor at the mental hospital in Varanasi had opined that he was an accused of unsound mind. He refused the applicant's request for bail under Section 330 of the CrPC because, in his opinion, there was no justification for the release of the applicant on bail.

Section 331 of the Act

According to this Section, the magistrate shall call the individual if he or she regains mental soundness or ceases to be crazy and restart the investigation and trial after the inquiry and trial have been postponed or delayed.

Case Law: Subhash Bhardwaj v. State [Crl Appeal No.545/2016],

In this case, it was held the trial will be set when the trial court gets the IHBAS report and completes its inquiry in accordance with Section 331 CrPC, the court decided.

Section 332- procedure of appearance before the magistrate/court

The inquiry and trial will proceed if the accused comes before the magistrate and the court feels he is competent of providing his defense, in accordance with Section 332 of the Act.

The provisions of Section 330 will once again be applicable if the individual is still unable to recover from his condition.

Case Law: Geeg Singh v. State of Rajasthan [MANU/RH/0059/2008]

In this case, the accused was held to be able to submit his defense, so the court ruled that the trial will continue.

Section 333- when the accused appears to be of sound mind

When the magistrate has grounds to think the defendant is of sound mind and there is proof indicating the accused performed acts and was of sound mind at the time of the acts, the magistrate will move forward with the case.

CaseLaw: Dimple @ Dimpu @ Gurcharan v. State of Punjab [MANU/BH/0047/1954]

In this case, it was held that Section 333 is activated because it is believed that the petitioner was experiencing a type of insanity at the time of the offence, which may have prevented him from understanding the character and nature of his act at the time he did it.

Section 334- acquittal on the ground of unsoundness of mind

The findings must indicate whether the conduct was done by the accused or not if a person is exonerated on the basis of insanity but is unable to describe the nature of the offence.

CaseLaw: Abdul Latif v. The State of Assam[1981CriLJ 1205],

In the case, at the crucial moment, the accused lacked the mental capacity to understand the nature of the crime or that he was engaging in behavior that was either unlawful or prohibited by the law. As a consequence, they vacated the verdicts and sentences, believed the appellant's claim of insanity, allowed his appeal, and declared him innocent.

Section 335- person acquitted to be kept in safe custody

If a magistrate finds someone not guilty due to insanity, they should either be kept in safe care or given to a relative or friend.

CaseLaw: Niman Sha v. State of M.P. [1997(1) MPLJ 536],

The accused was sentenced to imprisonment at the Institute of Mental Health in Gwalior until he returns to normality after the court made this determination based on the horrible act he had done, his mental state, and the threats he posed to society.

Section 337- procedure when unsound prisoner is reported capable of making his defense

If the magistrate finds that the lunatic is now capable of defending himself, Section 332 must be applied.

Case Law: Emperor v. Motilal Hiralal [(1913) 15 BOMLR 331]

The trial was continued by the court because the accused was found competent to defend himself.

Section 338- procedure when unsound person detained is declared fit to be released

There should be no harm in releasing a person who has been held under Section 330 on the basis of insanity if the authorized person declares that the person is fit to be released, detained by the authorities, or transferred to a public mental hospital. The government may then do so.

CaseLaw: Motiram Maroti Dhule v. State of Maharashtra [2003 BomCR Cri]

In this case, the court held that the petitioner is to be held in Amravati Jail's safe custody for the time being till the State Government takes appropriate action, per the court's directive. Depending on the circumstances, the State Government may determine where the appellant should be held while proceedings under Sections 338 or 339 of the Criminal Procedure Code are continuing.

Section 339- hand over of unsound person to the care of relative or friend

According to Section 339 of the Act, if a person's relative or friend requests that the individual be released to them, they must submit an application to the State Government.

The State Government will only consider such a request or approve the application provided the applicant provides the following:

  • Cared for properly without endangering himself or others
  • produced when the examination is required
  • produced when required in front of a magistrate

A certificate of inspection is maintained as evidence and the accused's relative or friend is called when he is able to defend himself.

Case Law: Geeg Singh v. State of Rajasthan [MANU/RH/0059/2008]

According to the Court, the State Government may issue appropriate instructions to surrender the appellant to any of his family or friends when he is fit, in accordance with Sections 338(1) and 339(1) of the CrPC.


The Code of Criminal Procedure's rules relating to those who lack the capacity for decision-making are stated in great detail. The process is intricate and mostly obligatory. Thus, it is clear that when it is determined that the accused is not of sound mind, the court will likely take a therapeutic approach to that person. To get the accused person released so that he might be placed under his care, a friend or family must submit an application.

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