Rajasthan High Court headed by the two-judge bench acquitted a woman accused of murdering a child earlier this month on the grounds that at the time of committing the crime, she was suffering from insanity triggered by premenstrual stress syndrome (PMS). The bench stressed on the fact that three doctors spoke in favour of the accused, a resident of Nasirabad in the state’s Ajmer district.
Kumari Chandra, a 21-year-old woman, was accused of pushing three children into a well. While two of them were rescued, one boy drowned. The trial court convicted Chandra for offences of committing murder and attempting to commit murder under the Indian Penal Code.
While the case was under trial, the lawyer for the accused argued that at the time of the incident, Chandra was suffering from premenstrual stress syndrome which led to Chandra becoming aggressive.
The Rajasthan HC referred to many similar cases happened earlier in the world such as Australian criminologist Dr Patricia Easteal’s paper – PMS in the Courtroom; or the France’s verdict over ‘PMS triggers insanity.
Citing these as the ground for their mandate, the High Court went on to accept Chandra’s defence stating that “although the law has not much developed in India as to the premenstrual stress syndrome (PMS) being set up as the defence of insanity, yet the accused has a right to plead and probabilize such defence to show that she was suffering from ‘premenstrual stress syndrome’ when the crime was committed and because of her such condition, the offence that she committed was an involuntary act on her part.”
The court relied on evidence showcasing prior instances of ‘madness’ and that the accused had previously received treatment for this condition from three different doctors. The judgment also cites and relies on several medical reports and journals to conclude that PMS could be a ground for unsound mind.
Can PMS trigger severe symptoms such as ‘madness’?
Though PMS is not a clearly defined syndrome, 2011 study in the Journal of Women’s Health stated that 20 percent of menstruating women have PMS that affects their life enough for them to seek help for it.
According to the many medical researches by American Psychiatric Association and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, there is a form of PMS that is more serious – Premenstrual Dysphoric Disease (PMDD) – and has been recognised as a mental health disorder.
Several Delhi based doctors while speaking with a media house The Quint stated that if PMDD is left diagnosed and untreated, it is possible for someone to take extreme step. It was reported that Delhi based psychologist Dr Aruna Broota has seen cases of PMS where women display symptoms like anxiety, hysterical behaviour like crying, screaming, throwing things, or even beating their children.