Queen-Empress vs Kader Nashyer Shah
Authored By- Gauhar Alam
Name of the case- Queen-Empress vs Kader Nashyer Shah
Equivalent Citation-(1896) ILR 23 Cal 604
Name of the Parties- Kader Nashyer Shah (Appellant), Queen Empress (Prosecution)
In the court of- Calcutta High Court
Bench- Mr. Justice O’Kinealy and Mr. Justice Banerjee
Unsoundness of mind is one of the defenses available under the Indian Penal Code, 1860 to escape criminal liability, but the defense available is not absolute. Judges decide the fate of the accused according to the facts and circumstances of each case. It is always very difficult for the court to decide whether this defense has to give in a case or not.
The present case is a case relating to section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 where the judges laid down certain principles concerning insanity as a defense in the criminal law.
Section 84 of the Indian penal Code, 1860 recognizes insanity as a defense to criminal liability. This section goes as follows-
“Act of a person of unsound mind.—Nothing is an offense which is done by a person who, at the time of doing it, because of unsoundness of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the act, or that he is doing what is either wrong or contrary to law.”
It is a difficult task to interpret this section and to decide whether an accused is entitled to the defense of insanity or not.
This landmark judgment discusses the concept of insanity and establishes a legal principle concerning section 84 of the code.
Background of the case
This case is one of the landmark cases on the defense of insanity, it was decided by the division bench of the Calcutta High Court on 15 April 1896.
Facts of the case
The facts of the case, in brief, are as follows-
The appellant named Kader Nasyer was charged and tried for the murder of an Eight-year-old boy named Abdul, he was convicted by the Sessions Court and was sentenced to transportation for life. He appealed to the Hon’ble High Court of Calcutta and took the plea of Unsoundness of mind. Evidence showed that his house was burnt in the past so he neglected house and fieldwork and often complained of pain. He also used to eat potsherds.
Issues for consideration
There were two main issues for the consideration of the Court-
1. Whether the accused-appellant killed the boy?
2. If the accused killed the boy then, is he guilty of murder or is entitled to be acquitted under the defense of insanity under section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860?
The judges analyzed the evidence produced and it became clear from the evidence that the accused was suffering from mental derangement some months before the date of the incident.
On consideration of statements made by the appellant before the committing magistrate, the court concluded that he caused the death of a boy and now only one issue was left for the consideration of the court.
It also came to the knowledge of court that the house of the appellant was burnt and he also used to eat potsherds and often complained of pain in the head. At the time of preliminary inquiry of the case, he was found mentally unfit and was unable to defend himself. The murder was committed without any sane motive and also the accused loved the boy and used to play with him. But on the other hand, the accused showed some secrecy in committing the murder he tried to hide the body of the deceased and also hid in woods.
The Hon’ble Court observed that the law of insanity as contained in section 84 of the Indian penal Code, 1860 as the same as the English law. The defense under section 84 of the code is only provided in those cases where the insanity affects the Cognitive faculty and not in those cases where only emotions and will of the accused is effected by such insanity.
The court convicted the appellant in this case because his cognitive faculties were not affected as he acted completely with his cognitive faculties in secretly concealing the deceased body and hiding in the jungle.
The Hon'ble Court observed as follows-
“We are not prepared to accept the view as generally correct that a person is entitled to exemption from criminal liability under our law in cases, in which it is only shown that he is subject to insane impulses, notwithstanding that it may appear clear that his cognitive faculties, so far as we can judge from his acts and words, are left unimpaired. To take such a view as.this would be to go against the plain language of Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, and the received interpretation of that section.”
In this case, the Hon’ble Calcutta High Court highlighted the importance of cognitive faculty in insanity. The law as exists in India and England provides the defense of Insanity only when the Cognitive faculties are hampered with. The defense is not available in cases where only the emotions or will of the accused are affected.
A person who is subjected to insane impulses, but whose cognitive faculties appear to be unhampered, is not entitled to protection under section 84 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.
 Section 84 in the Indian penal Code, 1860
1. Indian Penal Code, 1860