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The Legal Affair

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Bombay HC: Investigating officer must subject accused to a psychiatric evaluation if the sanity of the accused in question

Bombay HC: Investigating officer must subject accused to a psychiatric evaluation if the sanity of the accused in question

A bench of Justices AS Gadkari and Milind Jadhav has observed that if the Investigating Officer has the knowledge that an accused is known to be of unsound mind, it is the duty of the investigating office to subject the accused to a psychiatric assessment.

“…once PW-7 – IO became aware of the fact after apprehending the appellant that he was mentally retarded, it was his lawful duty to subject the appellant to medical examination and place the evidence of such medical examination before the trial court,” the Court stated.

The prosecution alleged in 2011 that, a pedestrian had died as a consequence of being attacked by an iron rod by the accused.

Witness testimonies submitted to the court indicate that the appellant was of unsound mind and that the police officer who arrested him had knowledge of the same.

“Conjoint reading of the depositions and admissions given in the cross-examination by the aforesaid three witnesses reveal an important facet in the present case i.e., the fact of insanity of appellant. That the police officer who first reached the spot of incident and apprehended the Appellant and brought him to the police station had specific knowledge that he was having mental issues,” the Court stated.

In light of this, the Court has maintained that it was the duty of the Police Officer to immediately subject the appellant to a psychiatric evaluation, which he failed to do.

It has also been noted in the court that the appellant had moved an application before the trial court seeking a psychiatric assessment report which concluded that there was no active psychopathology. Upon which the Court observed that while the accused was arrested in 2011 he was subjected to the psychiatric evaluation in 2014. “However it needs to be noted that the date of incident is 03.09.2011 whereas the date of the psychiatric report is 21.11.2014 i.e. more than 3 years after the date of incident,”

The court maintained the opinion that had the accused been subjected to the said evaluation at the time of his arrest, the state of his mental health could have been proved immediately and with certainty which was rendered impossible 3 years after the incident.

The Court, referring to the apex court’s decision in Bapu @ Gujraj Singh Vs. State of Rajasthan, stated that the appellant deserved the benefit of the doubt due to a lack of evidence on record to show that he was of unsound mind at the time of the incident and the prosecution was aware of the same.

Hence, observing that the IO’s failure to get the appellant examined created serious infirmity in the prosecution’s case, the court acquitted the appellant of all charges leveled against him.

The Court has ordered that the appellant undergo a psychiatric evaluation, and should the report be normal, he should be released immediately, and if the report confirms issues with his mental status, he should be treated in a mental institution in Pune by jail authorities before being released.

Advocate Nasreen S. Ayubi appeared for the appellant.

Assistant Public Prosecutor JS Lohakare appeared for the respondent – State.


CASE: Ajay Ram Pandit vs The State of Maharashtra