Kerala High Court acquits triple murder accused due to failure by Police to subject accused to medical examination to ascertain mental soundness
The Kerala High Court last week acquitted a woman convicted of triple murder by the Sessions Court on the grounds that law enforcement authorities failed to conduct any inquiry into her mental state at the relevant time despite evidence that she suffered from mental illnesses (Lalitha @ Latha Vs. State of Kerala). A Division Bench of Justices K Vinod Chandran and MR Anitha ruled that the accused is entitled to the benefit of the doubt if the investigating officer (IO) fails to submit the accused to medical examination immediately after the incident to determine his or her mental state at the time of the crime. If the Investigating Officer had been impartial and wished to present the genuine facts to the Court, he would have looked into the accused's mental health. The nature of the matricide and filicide of two small daughters, as well as the factors discovered during the investigation, should have prompted the Investigating Officer to have the accused subjected to a medical examination shortly after the incident to determine his or her mental state at the time of the incident. Failure to do so constitutes a fundamental flaw in the prosecution case, entitling the accused to the benefit of the doubt. Background: In 2008, the accused (in this instance, the appellant) sliced the necks of her mother and two daughters, killing them. She had also attempted suicide by cutting her own throat, but she was saved thanks to prompt medical help. She rejected all the incriminating evidence presented to her during her trial and maintained that she was a mental patient at the time of the occurrence, as well as before and after it. However, the Sessions Court in Kollam found her guilty of violating Sections 302 and 309 of the Indian Penal Code and sentenced her to life in jail and a fine of Rs. 10,000. To distinguish legal insanity from medical insanity, Nazar cited decisions in Dahyabhai Chhaganbhai Thakkar v. State of Gujarat, Kuttappan v. State of Kerala, Lakshmiah v. State of Karnataka, Hari Singh Govind v. State of M.P., Sheralli Wali Mohammed v. State of Maharashtra, and Mohammed Anwar v. State ( The Court pointed out that, while evidence of the appellant's mental illness was presented at trial, there was no proof of her mental condition at the time of the offence. As a result, the Court held that "the evidence presented by the prosecution and defence generates a reasonable question in the mind of the Court about the accused's mens rea, and the prosecution's general burden of proof on that element was not discharged, allowing the accused to benefit of doubt. As a result, the High Court granted the appeal and overturned the appellant's previous conviction and imprisonment.