• Legis Scriptor

Intoxication and Insanity

Authored By Smarth Arora

Keywords: Intoxication, voluntary intoxication, involuntary intoxication, state of mind, Indian penal code, substantive law, insanity, medical insanity, legal insanity, mental unsoundness.


The following article deals with general defences under legal code in India. The article discusses the necessities of intoxication to be used as a defence and numerous case laws and illustrations to elucidate its relevance within the Indian Legal Fraternity. The article additionally discusses concerning insanity as a defence and its pertinence in numerous situations. The article conjointly goes concerning discussing the relevant case laws explaining the necessities of insanity to be used as a defence.


I. Definition

Intoxication could be a state of mind within which an individual loses self-control and his ability to evaluate. Intoxication may be a defence accessible to criminal defendant on the premise that, attributable to the intoxication, the defendant failed to understand the nature of his/her actions or grasp what he/she was doing. The defence of intoxication generally depends on whether or not the intoxication was voluntary or involuntary and what level of intent is required by the criminal charge. Under the Indian penal code the criminal liability under intoxication is mentioned under sections 85 and 86.

Section 85: Act of an individual incapable of judgment by reason of intoxication caused against his will. — Nothing is an offence that is completed by an individual, who at the time of doing it, is, by reason of intoxication, incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he's doing what's either wrong, or contrary to law: providing the issue which intoxicated him was administered to him without his knowledge or against his will.[1]

II. Essentials of Section 85 of IPC

1. There ought to be a presence of an act of an individual.

2. The person ought to be incapable of knowing the nature of his act.

3. The incapacity ought to be the results of intoxication of someone.

4. The intoxication ought to be administered while not the desire or perhaps while not his while not.

5. Such incapacity ought to be while whereas doing the act.

III. Illustration

A and B are married for ten years. They were at a celebration where they began with quarrel. B under the influence of alcohol that was without his knowledge administered to him by his friends, once reaching home burned down his better half by running fuel oil on her. In such a case B cannot plead the defence of involuntary intoxication because he knew the implications of his act as he was able to get back home even when getting drunk.

Similar, in an exceedingly case where the defendant raped a thirteen year old girl and while raping the lady, he place his hand upon her moth and her thumb upon her throat that cause the death of the girl because of suffocation. The defence took the plea of intoxication. However, the court held that, drunkenness is not any dense unless it is prove that the accused was incapable of forming the intention required for committing the offence. In the present case, the accused was held guilty of rape as well as murder of the victim[2].

Section 86: Offence requiring a specific intent or knowledge committed by one who is intoxicated.—In cases where an act done isn't an offence unless done with a specific knowledge or intent, an individual who does the act during a state of intoxication shall be at risk of be dealt with as if he had a similar the same as he would have had if he had not been intoxicated, unless the thing that intoxicated him without his knowledge or against his will[3]

IV. Essentials of Section 86 of IPC

1. Presence of the element of a specific intention or knowledge.

2. He ought to be influenced by the consumption of an intoxicating substance.

3. The intoxication ought to be administered without the will or perhaps without his knowledge.

V. Illustration

Facts- the respondent was in dispute with a couple over a business matter. The couple wished to ruin the image of the respondent. In order that they employed a boy named penn. The couple was conscious of the paedophilic tendencies of the accused. They administered some drugs to the boy and as consistent with the set up the boy was unconscious as he was called alone in a room. The accused was intoxicated and hence the boy as raped and therefore the needed footage were collected as proof.

Held- the court held the accused guilty with the offence of rape as a result of he was not intoxicated thereto extent that he was unable to create the desired intention to try and do that specific act, albeit there was involuntary intoxication. Mens rea that was needed was present within the case. The accused pleaded that it absolutely was out of the question to create an intention in those circumstances however the court rejected his defence[4].

VI. Although voluntary drunkenness isn't a defence, it's an element that must be taken into thought in primarily 2 sorts of cases-

1. Just in case the offence is of such nature that a selected intent to commit that offence and it's tested within the court of law that the extent of the drunkenness of the defendant was specified to was impossible for him to create that particles intent. for instance, if someone commits murder under the influence of heavy intoxicating substance because of that he was unable to create (the necessary/ the needed/ the mandatory) specific intent required under section 300 IPC, section 86 would impute the mandatory guilt to him and he would be answerable for culpable killing not amounting to murder and not murder.

2. Wherever habitual drunkenness has resulted in such a mental condition of the accused that he's not able of understanding the nature an d consequence of his acts or that his acts are contrary to law.

During this case, the defence of insanity come into inherit play. In other words, insanity made by any reason together with the habitual drinking under enclosed below defence of insanity.

VI. Principle of delirium tremens

It is a condition that during which/ within which there's a control on the brain which is caused by drinking alcohol. It produces a sort of insanity wherever the person has no concept the act he has done is true or wrong. The malady is complete as insanity nucleon, and therefore the case is treated within the same manner as involuntary intoxication. Therefore, the act is exempted from criminal cases even it had been voluntary intoxication.

However, there are tons of developments within the cases involving intoxication. For example- In a case the supreme court examined section 85 of the penal code and command that the proof of drunkenness, the proof that proves that the suspect is incapable of forming the wrongful intent has additionally to be thought-about in conjunction with alternative facts, then it ought to be verified of the suspect person has the intention to commit the crime.

Simply proving that his mind was plagued by the intoxication that led to violent behaviour doesn't disapprove the actual fact that a person doesn't understand the natural consequences of that act. The court rejected the plea of the suspect attributable to the act was terribly brutal and diabolic.

Similarly, in another case both the suspect that's a retired man and therefore the deceased visited attend a wedding ceremony within the village. Whereas the lunch was being served, a number of the hosts were sitting on the chair whereas others were standing and seated on the ground. The deceased who was a thirteen year old boy was sitting on a chair and having his lunch once he refused to offer up the seat to the drunk accused. The accused then took out the small-arm from his pocket and shot the boy. The injuries were fatal and therefore the boy died on the spot. Within the court of law, the suspect took the defence that he was underneath the influence of significant intoxication and was unable to know the circumstances of his act. The court rejected his plea by stating that the accused himself came out of the house and he was able to walk thus he would have had the power to foresee the results of the aft. The court held him responsible for guilty of murder underneath section three hundred of IPC.


I. Definition

In addition to the maxim of ‘actus reus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea’ which serves as a basis for the defence of insanity, there are three alternative maxims that establish the peculiarity of man of unsound mind.

1. Furious furore sue puniter

This maxim means “A mad man is admonished by his madness alone”. This maxim emphasizes that once someone plagued by mental defect commits a proscribed act, there is no ought to penalise him more through the penal mechanism once his mental defect is a penalisation in itself.

2. Furiosus nulla voluntas est

This maxim means “A mad man has no will”. It stresses the apparent purpose that a person not in control of his senses cannot be same to possess a conscious and deliberate will of his own.

3. Furiosus absentis loco est

This maxim means “A mad man is like one who is absent”. This maxim is probably the foremost categorical recognition of the plight of a person plagued by insanity whereby he's equated with a person who is absent and therefore will never be command criminally liable.

From a substantial time the jurists in England like Hawkins and Stephen propose the final thought of the idea that a person of unsound mind cannot be held guilty of a criminal offense. Hence, several theories are evolved from the landmark judgements in past that facilitate to know insanity as a defence.

II. Theories to determine Insanity

A. Wild beast theory

In this case Tracy J. projected the idea that has come back to be called the ‘wild beast theory’ for determinative the precise reasonably mental defect that ought to be exempted from criminal liability. He contended that not each oddity in an exceedingly man’s conduct will be exempted on the bottom of psychopathy. He declared that so as to be exempted from criminal liability a man’s comprehension ought to be no quite that of an infant or a wild beast and consequently incapable of distinguishing between smart and evil.

B. The Delusion test within the Hadfield Case

During this case the defence lawyer was ready to persuade the jury that the plea of insanity cannot be confined to total deprivation if understanding. He urged that the take a look at of insanity should additionally take into consideration mounted insane delusions that operate solely among given contexts and don't have an effect on the overall temperament of the person in entirety.

C. Bowler’s Case of Right and Wrong

This was a case that saw a departure from the ‘good and evil’ abstract framework to the expression of ‘right and wrong’. Therefore the test of insanity was held to be supported the capability of man to tell apart between right and wrong. Though in the case itself, Lord Mansfield C.J. used the phrase ‘right and wrong’ synonymously with ‘good and evil’, this case prompted a trend wherever in future cases, the courts started putting bigger stress on the conception of ‘right and wrong.

D. M’Naghten Case

This case presents the foremost seminar landmark within the evolution of the law of insanity. The case is very important not because of the principles enunciated in it however thanks to the evolution it galvanized as a reaction to its controversial decision. The case concerned the murder of man. Edmond Drummond who was the personal secretary to Sir Robert Peel, the then Prime Minister of England. Mr. DenielM’Nathten shot and killed man. Edmond underneath the misunderstanding that he was in reality man. Peel. His motivation to kill man. Peel had its origins in his neurotic belief that man. Peel had burned him. He was innocent by the jury on the grounds of insanity. The medical proof showed that man. Edburn wasn't in his management thanks to a condition of morbid delusion. The trial of man M’Naghten and his final decision created a stir. Because of the furore regarding his final decision and therefore the evident ambiguity within the laws regarding legal insanity, five queries were developed and by the House of Lords and brought up fifteen judges thus as to get a clarification on the law regarding a plea of legal insanity.

What's called the M’Naghten Rules on legal insanity is nothing however the composite version of those queries and therefore the answers to those queries.

E. M’Naghten Rules

The M’Naghten Rules will be summarised within the sort of the subsequent five propositions;

1. Every person is plausible to be of the sound mind and as capable of possessing the intelligence soon be answerable for his criminal conduct. If the contrary is being claimed, the burden of proof is on the person thus claiming.

2. So as to be exempt from the criminal liability of a conduct, it should be verified that at the time of committing the act, the person because of a defect of mind wasn't tuned in to nature and quality of the act he was doing, or if he did comprehend it, he didn't understand that what he was doing was wrong.

3. If someone was conscious at the time of doing the act, to the actual fact that he ought not have done the act or that his act was contrary to law of the land, he's to be held criminally liable.

4. A medical witness who doesn't have previous information of the victim before the trial mustn't be implored on question of insanity of the suspect on the proof before him.

5. Once someone commits bound acts plagued by delusional insanity and therefore not knowing truth nature of his acts, he are command liable to the same degree as he would be if his conduct is evaluated in terms of the facts fanciful by him.

III. Similarly there exists an oversized distinction within the terms legal insanity and medical insanity. In keeping with the medical purpose of read, it's in all probability correct to mention that each person, once committing a criminal act, is insane and so desires an exemption from criminal responsibility; whereas it's a legal purpose of read, someone should be command to be identical as long as he's ready to distinguish between right and wrong; as long as he is aware of that the act allotted is contrary to the law.

IV. Insanity underneath Indian Law

The basic plan is that some individuals, underneath the force of a disturbance, cannot control their actions despite understanding that the action is wrong. This general defence is explained under Section 84 of the Indian penal code.

Section 84: Act of someone of unsound mind— nothing is an offence that is finished by someone who, at the time of doing it, by reason of condition of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he's doing what's either wrong or contrary to law[5].

V. Essentials of Section 84 of IPC

For this defence, the subsequent parts area unit to be established-

1. The suspect was in an exceedingly state of condition of mind at the time of the act.

2. He was unable to understand the character of the act or do what was either wrong or contrary to the law. The term ‘wrong’ is completely different from the term ‘contrary to the law.’

VI. Illustration

The Supreme Court determined that Section 84 sets out the legal test of responsibility in cases of alleged mental insanity. There's no definition of ‘mind soundness’ in IPC. However, the courts have principally treated this expression as equivalent to insanity. However the term ‘insanity’ itself doesn't have an exact definition. It's a term accustomed describe numerous degrees of disturbance. So, each unstable person isn't ipso facto exempt from criminal responsibility. A distinction should be created between legal insanity and medical insanity. A court thinks about with legal insanity, not medical insanity[6].

Similarly, it had been well established by the court that the crucial purpose of your time at that the unsound mind ought to be established is that the time once the crime is really committed and whether or not the accused was in such a state of mind on be entitled to learn from Section 84 will solely be determined from the circumstances that preceded, attended and followed the crime. In alternative words, it's the behaviour precedent, attendant and following the event that will be relevant in determinative the mental condition of the accused at the time of the commission of the offense however not those remote in time[7].


I. Text Books

1. K.D. Gore, Text book on Indian Penal Code

2. Ratanlal & Dhirajlal, Indian Penal Code

II. Bare Acts

1. Indian Penal Code, 1860

III. Websites







Foot Notes:

[1] Indian penal code [2] Director of public prosecutor vs. Beard [3] Indian penal code [4] R vs. Kingston [5] Indian Penal Code, 1860 [6] Hari Singh Dravidian v. State of Madhya Pradesh [7] Rattan Lal v. State of M.P