Insanity is a general defence under criminal law and is also provided under IPC 1960. In a landmark judgment on 21st January 2014, in the case of Shatrugan Chauhan Vs Union of India, the Supreme Court held that:
a) Undue unordinary and unreasonable delay in execution of death penalty and,
b) Insanity are supervening circumstances which violates Right to life an liberty under Article 21 of the Indian constitution.
The court also held that the decision will also apply equally to cases under TADA [Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (prevention) Act] The Judgment deals with the post Sentence insanity. Court held that when the convict has been awarded death sentence and pending decision on mercy petition, if the convict develops insanity, it will amount to a supervening factor to commute death penalty. The rationale behind this is that, if the person was in a sane state of mind, he might have been alleged something in the stay of judgment or execution. The right is protected under Article 21 of the Indian constitution. The Court interpret this judgment and its definition of insanity in the widest manner in keeping with the judicial intrusion. The Supreme Court has given orders for regular mental health evaluation of all death row convicts. If a convict is found unfit, the sentence is to be stopped and comprehensive report is to be forwarded to the Government. Supreme Court has firmly established the jurisprudence of Right to Life and Liberty even to prisoners until their last breath. The protection of Article 21 must be recognized to extend to other vulnerable groups such as pregnant women, recent mothers, old, infirm, disabled etc. A bright step in this direction was taken by enacting the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of children) Act, 2000, which bars sentences of more than 3 years for persons below 18 years.