| Praveen Mahajan being taken to court on Wednesday. (Fotocorp)
New Delhi, May 3: As the attempt-to-murder charge against him is converted to one of murder, Praveen Mahajan might now plead “grave and sudden provocation” in his defence besides insanity.
While the plea of insanity, if proved, could completely absolve him of all charges, the defence of grave and sudden provocation would reduce the gravity of his crime from murder to “culpable homicide not amounting to murder”.
A murderer can be sentenced to death, but the highest punishment for a person convicted of culpable homicide not amounting to murder is life imprisonment.
Legal experts say Praveen would find it hard to establish the plea of “unsoundness of mind”.
An accused is exonerated of criminal charges only if he can prove that at the time when he committed the crime, he was incapable of realising the nature of the act, or knowing that what he was doing was either wrong or contrary to law.
“The fact that the accused committed the murder over a trifling matter and made a clean breast of his crime would not go to show that he was insane,” the Supreme Court had clarified in a 1974 judgment.
On the other hand, if Praveen can prove that he caused the death of Pramod while being deprived of the power of self-control by grave and sudden provocation, he could get the charge reduced to culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
The Indian Penal Code has a provision in Section 300 (which defines murder) to accommodate such a defence.
Praveen, however, cannot challenge the charge being converted from attempt-to-murder to murder on the ground that better treatment could have saved the life of his brother.
The Supreme Court has ruled in several cases that such a defence would not be available if the injuries inflicted were the cause of the victim’s death.