New Delhi: A person committing a crime, including murder, under a state of illness cannot be convicted for murder, the Supreme Court has held upholding the acquittal of an epilepsy-afflicted man who stoned to death a temple priest in 1999 in Rajasthan.

A bench of justices Swatanter Kumar and Ranjana Prakash Desai said in a judgement that persons suffering from such mental disorders cannot be convicted as they enjoy immunity from Section 84 of IPC.

"Once a person is found to be suffering from mental disorder or mental deficiency, which takes within its ambit hallucinations, dementia, loss of memory and self-control, at all relevant times by way of appropriate documentary and oral evidence, the person concerned would be entitled to seek resort to the general exceptions from criminal liability.

The Apex Court passed the judgement while dismissing an appeal filed by Rajasthan government challenging the February 21, 2004 acquittal of Shera Ram by the State High Court which had overturned the life imprisonment imposed by a sessions court for stoning to death priest Tulsi Das.

"The respondent not only in his statement under Section 313 CrPC took up the defence of mental disorder seeking benefit of Section 84 IPC but even led evidence, both documentary as well as oral, in support of his claim," Justice Swatanter Kumar, writing the judgement, said.

In this case, on March 10, 1999 at about 7.15 am, while Tulsi Das was in Raghunathji’s temple, Shera Ram suddenly hurled a stone at the victim's head resulting in his instantaneous death. He also damaged the idol and other properties of the temple without any provocation.  The Apex Court said medical records in the present case clearly indicated that Shera Ram was suffering from epilepsy and that after an epileptic attack, a patient behaves like an insane person and is unable to recognise even the known persons and relatives.

"During this time, there is a memory loss and the patient can commit any offence. Oral and documentary evidence clearly shows that the respondent was suffering from epileptic attacks just prior to the incident.”

"Immediately prior to the occurrence, he had behaved violently and had caused injuries to his own family members. After committing the crime, he was arrested by the police and even thereafter, he was treated for insanity, while in jail.”

"Thus, there is evidence to show continuous mental sickness of the respondent. He not only caused death of the deceased but also on the very same day injured and caused hurt to his family members," the bench said.