The Meghalaya High Court Set aside the conviction of an unsound mind person.
A division bench of the Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice W. Diengdoh observed that the appellant was admitted in MIMHANS in 2011 and his medical status report clearly indicated that the appellant was psychotic, he had no insight of his own illness and was unfit to stand trial as he required long-term treatment to prevent further deterioration.
The court said that merely because the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution does not require the letter of the Code to be adhered to does not imply that common sense and all fundamental cannons of justice have to be thrown to the wind by the District Council Court, surprisingly authorised to deal with such a serious matter when it is obvious that the Judge concerned lacks basic sense of justice and is completely bereft of domain knowledge on the subject.
Court added that the detailed procedure requires the court to assess, upon obtaining expert medical report, the mental condition of the accused and to not proceed with the trial till such time that the accused is found fit to stand trial so as to be able to make out his defence.
The appellant, who is represented by the Legal Aid Counsel, has been convicted under Section 302 of the Penal Code for triple murder but sentenced only to 14 years’ imprisonment. If the conviction were to be upheld, the sentence has to be enhanced in accordance with law since the punishment in this case could only have been death sentence or life imprisonment.
On pursuant to considerable industry on the part of Counsel representing the appellant, that the appellant may be of unsound mind and it should have occurred to any reasonable person that the appellant may have been of unsound mind since he was accused of committing triple murder of his parents and a sibling.
It was held by the court that since the trial in the case could not have been undertaken in the wake of the medical report and the District Council Court conducting the trial completely overlooked or deliberately ignored the same, the entire process is set at naught and the judgment of conviction and the consequent sentence are set aside.
The court remanded the matter to the trial court to be dealt with in accordance with law, particularly keeping in mind the requirements of Section 329 of the CrPC.
The court ordered that the trial court will not resume the trial in accordance with Section 331 of the Code or the spirit thereof, till such time an expert opinion is rendered in accordance with law as to the appellant herein being fit to stand trial.
In any event, even if the appellant is found fit to stand trial and repeats the confession or admission made earlier, the trial court must look into the evidence and use the confession as another piece of evidence and not the sole material to convict the appellant.
The court directed that a copy of the judgment be reached to the Law Secretary of the State for future steps to be taken cautiously before conferring authority on District Council Courts or Judges ill-equipped to administer justice in accordance with the basic tenets of law.
The court ordered that in view of the spirit of Section 330 of the Code, the appellant is entitled to be released and admitted for treatment at a proper medical facility run by the State pending further orders of the trial court.
Further, the court directed that a copy of the judgment be also forwarded to the State Legal Services Authority to guard against reckless appointments and to start a process of appraising the quality of assistance rendered before the next appointment is handed out to an applicant.
Case title: Shri Bremingstar Mylliem v/s State of Meghalaya