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Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

CRIMINAL RESPONSIBILITY                                            399

that the case did not fall within section 84 of the Indian Penal Code because the mental
faculties of Matin distinguishing right from wrong from a moral point of view were
absolutely clear. The applicant fully believed that taking life of another was not only
illegal but immoral. The appellant divided himself into two parts, viz. Matin AH and
Rumi Safa (free lance). According to him. there resided in his physical body both good
and evil spirits and in spite of his control the evil spirit forced him to kill useless persons
like himself to make the world better. Matin did not commit suicide as the world would
have taken him as a coward. The present crimes were committed in a fit of impulsive
insanity without any motive or premeditation, nevertheless they did come under pur-
view of section 302, I.P.C., but necessitated indulgent consideration. Having regard to
the fact that the appellant belonged to a respectable family and had received higher
education, the Judicial Commissioner directed that the case be laid before the local
Government for such indulgent consideration as they may be pleased to show to the
appellant under section 401 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

In the case of Rex v. Ronald True, who was tried at the Central Criminal
Court of London on a charge of murdering a prostitute by strangulation
after spending the night at her flat on March 6, 1922, Mr. Justice McCardie,
in his charge to the jury said, " even if the prisoner knew the physical
nature and that it was morally wrong and punishable by law, yet was by
mental disease deprived of the power to control his actions, then the verdict
should be guilty but insane ". His Lordship definitely conceded the doctrine
of criminal irresponsibility on the ground of impairment of the power of
self-control, but pointed out that this exemption should be applied with
great care. The jury found the accused guilty of " wilful murder ", and he
was sentenced to death. The sentence was subsequently upheld' by the
Court of Criminal Appeal. Shortly afterwards a representation was made
to the Home Secretary that True was insane, whereupon he appointed a
committee of three mental specialists to examine True and to certify if he
was sane or insane. On their having certified that he was insane the Home
Secretary ordered True to be removed to a criminal asylum,.

In July 1922, the Lord Chancellor appointed a Comm^feee consisting of
the well-known lawyers under the chairmanship of Lord Justice Atkin to
consider and report upon what changes, if any, were desirable in the existing
law, practice and procedure relating to criminal trials in which the plea of
insanity is raised as a defence. The committee recommended that the rules
formulated in the McNaughten case be" maintained, and further recom-
mended an additional rule that it should be recognized that a person charged
criminally with an offence is irresponsible for his act when the act is
committed under an impulse which the prisoner was, by mental disease, in
substance deprived of any power to resist. These recommendations were
incorporated in a bill, called the Criminal Responsibility (Trials) Bill, which
was moved in the House of Lords in 1924, but was negatived.

Somnambulism.—This is an abnormal mental condition, and means
walking during sleep. In this condition the mental faculties are partially
active and are so concentrated on one particular train of ideas that a som-
nambulist is capable of performing most remarkable and incredible pieces
of work, which would have baffled his intelligence during his waking hours.
A somnambulist may thus solve a very difficult problem or may commit
theft or murder. A person who is the victim of a somnambulistic habit has
generally no recollection of the events occurring during the fit after he
awakes. In some cases he remembers the events of one fit in subsequent
fits and follows them with exact precision, though he forgets them in the
normal state. *

Somnambulism forms a very good plea of defence for exemption from
criminal liability, if it can be proved that the accused committed the offence
during the fit. In a case where Maggie Alexander47 was charged wj$h
having murdered her child with a razor the jury returned a verdict ,<*£'

47.   Lcmcet, Dec. 14, 1929, p. 1265.