Sets aside his conviction and orders treatment at Institute of Mental Health

The Madras High Court Bench here on Friday came to the rescue of a person suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and saved him from facing the gallows as ordered by a lower court.

The individual R. Maruthu alias Maruthupandian had beaten to death two women and three men with a log at Melachivapuri village in Ponnamaravathy Taluk of Pudukottai district on June 19, 2009.

Disposing a criminal appeal filed by him along with a statutory reference made by the trial court, a Division Bench of Justice M. Jaichandren and Justice S. Nagamuthu set aside the conviction as well as capital punishment imposed on him by the Mahila Court in Pudukottai district on January 23, 2012.

The Bench held that a person of unsound mind could not be convicted for any offence.

The judges also disagreed with the trial court’s conclusion that the appellant was only pretending to be suffering from paranoid schizophrenia.

Referring to the medical evidence as well as statements made by the prosecution witnesses before the trial court, they said that there was overwhelming evidence to prove that he was suffering from the mental disorder for long.

The judges directed the Superintendent of Tiruchi Central Prison to release the appellant forthwith.

However, apprehending that he might be a potential danger to others if allowed to go scot-free, they invoked Section 24 of the Mental Health Act and ordered his detention at the Institute of Mental Health at Kilpauk in Chennai for safe custody and treatment.

Writing the judgement for the Bench, Justice Nagamuthu pointed out that the appellant, a native of Melachivapuri, was married five years before the five murders took place and migrated to Tiruppur. But his wife deserted him. His parents too refused to take care of him. Alienated and alone, he turned to narcotic drugs and liquor.

After a few years, he returned to his native place and struggled to make both ends meet.

“Even to meet his every day expenditure, he had no money. He used to seek monetary help from the villagers for food. Virtually, he was begging and therefore, the villagers did not respect him. Obviously, he was suffering from mental illness,” the judgement read.

Considering him a nuisance, the villagers forced him onto a bus bound to Tiruppur on June 8, 2009. However, he jumped out of the vehicle after travelling some distance and returned to his village, much to the dismay of many.

On the day of the incident, he was infuriated at the villagers and began attacking people at random.

The rage resulted in the death of five.

Though the facts clearly establish that the appellant was suffering from a mental disorder even before the killing occurred, the trial court had refused to give credence to them for the sole reason that the appellant admitted killing the five individuals when questioned by a police officer immediately after the incident. The court was of the view that a mentally unstable person would not admit his offence.

Stating that it was unable to agree with the findings given by the trial court, the Division Bench held that the act of the accused of killing the villagers was not an offence as it squarely fell within the exemption under Section 84 of the Indian Penal Code.

The Section states that no act committed by a person of unsound mind could be termed as an offence punishable under law.

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