Author : Ishita Arora
Citation: 1977 AIR 608
Bench: Justice M. H. Beg, Justice A.N. Ray and Justice Jaswant Singh.
A Special Leave Petition under Article 136 of the Indian Constitution was filed by the appellant against the order of conviction and sentence of death for burning alive three innocent sleeping children by taking the defence of insanity In this case.
In the case of Amrit Bhushan v Union of India, the Supreme Court held that courts have no power to stop the carrying out of a sentence of death legally passed upon an accused person only on the ground either that there is some rule in the common law of England against the execution of an insane person sentenced to death or for certain religion or moral objection to it.
Also, the defence of insanity taken in the present case under section 30 of the Prisoners Act, 1900 is not related with the powers of courts.
It only considers the place and manner of confinement of a person, who appears to be a lunatic, when his detention or imprisonment is either during the trial or during the period when, after the sentence, he is undergoing imprisonment.
Also, insanity is complete defence to criminal liability only when it disables an accused person from knowing the nature of the act he was committing when he commits a criminal act.
If at the time of the commission of the offence, the appellant knew the character of the act he was committing, he could not be absolved of responsibility for the offence of murder committed by him.
Facts of the case
The facts of the case state that Amrit Bhushan was sentenced to death for burning alive three innocent sleeping children aged 14, 8 and 5 years on the night of 21st June, 1968.
His crime was so heinous that even the extreme penalty of death was appearing too mild for the murder of three children by burning them alive. Delhi High Court also confirmed the death sentence on 23rd September, 1969.
Amrit Bhushan made the plea of insanity to the High Court but the Hon’ble High Court refused even to entertain the same. The Supreme Court also dismissed various petitions filed by Amrit Bhushan. Thereafter, numerous mercy petitions were also filed.
Now, the present special leave petition under article 135 of The Constitution was filed taking the defence insanity.
There is no doubt that at the time of the trial of the appellant, he was given proper legal aid and that he did not suffer from insanity either during his trial or at the time of the commission of the offence.
Issues and facts of the law
1. Whether the appellant who became insane after conviction and sentence could be executed?
The Supreme Court agreed with the High Court observation that authorities concerned are expected to look into matters which lie within their powers.
And, as the President of India has rejected the appellant’s mercy petitions, the court presumed that all relevant facts and matter have been looked into by the authorities and the death sentence could not be stopped.
Accordingly, the appeal was dismissed.