Is Alcoholism Madness?

January 6, 2023

Drunkenness is nothing but voluntary madness” – Seneca (4 BC- 65 AD), Roman philosopher, statesman and orator.

On January 4, 2023, Indian Supreme Court (SC) ruled that “Addiction to alcohol cannot be equated with unsound mind”.

But, first the background and highlights of the SC ruling.

SC upheld the conviction and life imprisonment sentence to a man who killed his two minor sons in 2009 in Delhi. It rejected his defence that he was of unsound mind being a habitual drunkard, and said that addiction to alcohol cannot be equated with unsound mind to escape prosecution in a criminal case.

As per section 84 of IPC, nothing is an offence which is committed by a person who, at the time of the crime, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the act.

With evidence in the case heavily against the accused for the horrific offence of killing his minor sons, aged about 9 years and 6 years, advocate for the accused Shikil Suri, raised the issue of his addiction to alcohol to impress upon the court that culprit father was not of sound mind. He said the trial in the case was vitiated as this issue was not examined by the court. Suri pointed out that the convict was admitted to de-addiction centre but his family got him discharged before completion of the course and he remained addicted to alcohol.

A bench of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sudhanshu Dhulia, however, rejected the submission of unsoundness of mind after analysing his conduct in the de-addiction centre and the way in which he had planned and executed the murder and wiped out evidence against him.

The court also noted that he was never given any medicine for mental illness. The Bench said: “The evidence shows that the appellant was addicted to alcohol and was admitted to the rehabilitation centre. However, there is nothing on record to show that the appellant was medically treated as a person of unsound mind or was legally required to be taken as a person of unsound mind. The testimony of manager of the rehabilitation centre had been clear that during his stay in the centre, no mental illness was observed in the appellant nor was he treated for any mental illness.

“These submissions are founded on the facts that the appellant was addicted to alcohol and was admitted to the rehabilitation centre for de-addiction. It has also been underscored that the family members of the appellant got him discharged from the rehabilitation centre against advice and without letting him complete the course for rehabilitation to its expected duration. The submissions carry several shortcomings and could only be rejected in the facts of the present case,” it said while upholding his conviction and life sentence.

As per the prosecution, in May 2009, the convict took his two sons to Haiderpur canal, strangulated them, and threw the bodies into the canal and thereafter, attempted to project as if it were a case of accidental drowning. It was also alleged that the appellant was a drunkard, who doubted the chastity of his wife and suspected that the children were not his sons.

“It is also noteworthy that contrary to even a trace of want of mental capacity of the appellant at the time of commission of the crime, the manner of commission... shows an alert and calculative mind”, the bench said. As per section 84 of IPC, nothing is an offence which is committed by a person who, at the time of the crime, by reason of unsoundness of mind, is incapable of knowing the nature of the act.

A bench of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Sudhanshu Dhulia rejected the submission of unsoundness of mind after analyzing the accused’s conduct and the way in which he had planned and executed a murder and wiped out evidence.

To conclude with another view on alcohol: “I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken from me” - Winston Churchill (1874- 1965) British statesman, soldier and writer who served as Prime Minister of UK.

The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Your response, in the format given below (Pl. scroll down a bit) is welcome. Happy 2023!


The above topic case implies that the accused drunkard doubted the chastity of his wife leading to drowning to death his two children. This is not novel.

There was a couple with a fair wife but of poor family background and an affluent husband with less than fair skin colour. They had five children, the first four were fair and the last one not so fair. On his death bed with a terminal disease, he summoned his wife to his bedside and said: “My end is near and if you tell me the truth, I will forgive everything and die in peace. Who fathered our last child?”. “That is the only child fathered by you”.

The man turned his face on the pillow and gave up his ghost.


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By John B Monteiro
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Comment on this article

  • Lloyd, DK/ UK

    Thu, Jan 12 2023

    'Soma' (or alcohol, spirit, grog, mead, etc., etc.,) is the nectar of the Gods. Even Jesus himself turned water into wine, then who are we mere mortals to question the supreme liquid that enhances and enlightens the simple human mind? Humans cannot handle enlightenment and the tool of enlightenment 'Soma'. Gods drink it, Asuras enjoy it (eg: Rahu the Great!), Demons relish it, we humans adjectively soak in the 'borrowed sprit'. A gun on its own cannot shoot, likewise a drink on its own is harmless unless and until someone tries to misuse it. Those who drink, swear by it, those who don’t despise it. Like everything else divine, it is just a case of humans being unable to handle the great power albeit for only a short time. With great power comes great responsibility. So ‘Drink Responsibly!’

  • Rita, Germany

    Thu, Jan 12 2023

    Alcoholism is not a madness but can become madness.One drinks first one portion ,just for fun to toast ,next day for to show that you are not sitting back when others drink .Later the alcohol taste remains in mouth ,so as days pass by with friends or relatives ,to toast ,portion increases and from soft drinks to hard drinks,glas becomes less ,your body says I require more .So slowly increases .Man cant work without alcohol later and becomes sickness.Your liver absorbs alcohol very fast and when one is used to it becomes sick .A person who drinks more alcohol is not in a state to realize he is alcoholiker or sick.But thinks he consumed less.Here People drink soft wine in for a dinner as to toast or evening ,since during cold season .Workers start to drink who work out side in cold ,bier to be warm .Alcoholism is sickness in which some people do things which in normal situation may not do .Many families are gone splitted ,husband kills wife for not cooking his best dish ,but not knowing there is no money given to bring spices or rice etc.

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