The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has set aside the conviction awarded by a trial court to a man suffering from chronic schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. The man, a former inmate of the Erwadi Dargah was accused of killing a fellow inmate in 2015.
The Sessions court in Ramanathapuram convicted the man in 2017, on charges of killing a fellow inmate of the Erwadi Dargah, under Section 302 (murder) of IPC. However, the trial court did not pass any substantive sentence of imprisonment.
The case of the prosecution is that a quarrel arose between the two inmates following which the man took a piece of wood lying nearby and hit the other inmate. The injured inmate was admitted to the Government Rajaji Hospital in Madurai. He succumbed to his injuries.
The Sessions court had sentenced the man to pay a fine of ₹ 10,100, out of which ₹ 10,000 was directed to be paid to the family of the deceased inmate and ₹ 100 to the government. He was directed to be lodged at the Institute of Mental Health at Kilpauk in Chennai.
The period of treatment was not specified by the trial court. Pursuant to the order of the trial court, the appellant continued to be lodged at the Institute of Mental Health. Since no appeal was filed, the High Court Legal Services Authority had nominated an advocate to take up the appeal in 2019.
A Division Bench of Justices P.N. Prakash and R. Hemalatha observed that the appeal deserves to be allowed on the ground that there are overwhelming materials on record to show that the appellant was suffering from chronic schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
The case of the appellant would fall within the general exceptions under Section 84 (act of a person of unsound mind) of IPC. The appeal is allowed and the judgment and order of conviction and sentence passed by the trial court is set aside, the judges said.
However, the judges made it clear that the appellant could not be just like that released from the Institute of Mental Health. The father of the appellant submitted he would take care of his son, if he was discharged from the hospital.
The judges granted the appellant’s father the liberty to approach the trial court and file an application for the custody of the appellant. The trial court judge may obtain a report from the Institute of Mental Health, the judges said.
After the trial court judge was satisfied that the appellant could be looked after by his father, and that he does not harm himself or others, the judge may order the appellant to be handed over to the father.
If the trial court is satisfied that the appellant may need continuous treatment at the Institute of Mental Health, it may pass appropriate orders and keep him there as an inpatient and not as a convict prisoner. In the event of discharging him from the Institute of Mental Health, the provisions of Section 98 of the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 may be followed, the judges said.