Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Crime & Psychology

“We are what circumstances make of us…”


Once upon a time there lived a small boy whose name was David. He had a very normal delivery, just how any other normal child would be born to normal parents. His life however, changed the moment he began to grow up. His parents, John and Catherine constantly engaged themselves in quarrels and fights. While he was a student in school, he was very frequently bullied over his appearance and his personality and as he grew up, the people around him only grew hostile to his very presence. It was David’s 16th birthday and the least he expected was for a wish, an acknowledgment by his parents. But what turned out was, a day filled with a very gory experience, with his parents drunk and beating themselves up while cursing David for his birth and existence. This is David’s life till he turned 16.

On the evening of his 16th birthday, when David could not endure anymore and in order to vent out the frustration that had been growing within him for the past sixteen years, David ended up murdering a child he saw playing outside on the street. David, is a monster, is what we may all come to think. But the question that comes to my mind through this small story is, whether or not a person’s psychology, a person’s growth or his mental element should be considered in cases of crimes especially while delivering justice? Well, the answer to this question is extremely critical and I strongly feel that it is of grave importance that the law be revamped in this regard.



In cases of crimes, there are two vital and very essential elements that are needed to prove a person’s guilt. The Latin maxim, “Et Actus Reus, Non Facit Nisi Men Sit Rea”, is the guiding principle on which the foundation for the understanding of crime is built upon. The maxim basically means that, two elements namely, Actus Reus, a physical element and Mens Rea, a mental element are essentially required in order to constitute a crime. Although this maxim has been a binding force for thousands of years, I have often felt that this maxim has not been construed in a right sense. The physical element in a crime basically includes the preparation for a crime and the actual commission. The mental element includes the motive, the planning and finally the execution. What the maxim absolutely ignores is the circumstances which drive a person into committing a crime. Let us look into the story that I mentioned above, David’s life hasn’t really been a bed of roses. He has often been ignored and has been subjected to a constant presence of violence and hatred which has etched very deep psychological scars on his mind. Psychology is precisely what is missing in the understanding of a crime. In my opinion the two elements mental and physical involves only the present situation in it completely overlooking the past and the importance of circumstances in a person’s growth. Personally, I do not opine that a person who has suffered from severe psychological pain be given an opportunity to evade punishment, but I strongly believe that, such a person must initially be given a thorough rehabilitation for psychological reformation.

The courts of law in the country more than often fail to analyze, how the growth of a person may in fact assist them in making an attempt to bring an end to large evils. Various members of terrorists groups have often stated in their accounts that it is the way they were brought in utmost poverty that led them to accept terrorism as an option to earn an income for their families, also the lack of educational facilities in a few instances. Although terrorism brings with it widespread violence and brutality, I tend to feel that it is in fact a very active eye opener to the passive citizens of this country. Through the whole Ajmal Kasab fiasco that has been taking the limelight for the past one and a half years, what I come to understand is that, if the Government chose to spend the money that which is being spent in looking after Kasab on the people from Jammu and Kashmir, we would have seen a change in the society and the rising of fewer militants. If the same had been spent in having talks with the Naxals and Maoists we would have saved ourselves from the carnage which ended up killing all those soldiers. The fact that the courts of law fail to thoroughly analyze a situation and go in to the grips of it by comprehensively grasping every minute detail is in fact slowing the entire process of judiciary and governance. A judge from the Andhra Pradesh High Court recently stated, that if, the Courts in India declined to accept anymore cases and if they chose to work and deliver justice to the cases that are already pending before them, it would take a excruciating 330 years to do so. Such is the case of our judicial system.



In a particular case, a woman who was ailing from a severely chronic disease attempted suicide by jumping into a well with her nine year old daughter. The daughter ended up dying but the woman survived. On being brought to court on the grounds of homicide, the court acquitted the woman without even considering to offer her a session of rehabilitation or certain health benefits. A similar case occurred when a man who was happily married to his wife murdered her with an axe while they were collecting wood in the forest merely because she threw her “mangal sutra” at him. The court again, acquitted the man because he supposedly acted at the spur of the moment in a fit of rage. The court absolutely fails to apply its mind and to look back into the history and circumstantial growths of such situations while delivering justice.

Therefore, if psychology per se was given higher importance in the delivery of justice, the judiciary in India would improve to a very large extent. A person is more than often cured only through a process of reformation. Besides, various predicaments can be sorted out in a very amicable manner if the root cause of the evil was discovered. In a way, a prevention of the same from happening may be achieved and on the other hand, awareness and change can be brought about.

9 comments:

Phantom said...

You are a lawyer in the making.. then tell me why isn't justice served to such unfortunate people. Is it not sad that sometimes criminals do take unsound mind as a ground for their actions, which was committed in a sane mind otherwise. So whats the solution here? whom do we point fingers at?

Kirti Mohan said...

For unsound mind to be used as a defence there is a process that is generally employed in a court of law.. It is very difficult to prove unsoundness until and unless there is an actual evidential presence through medical examination. And unsoundness of mind in cases of an idiot can be used as a defence in almost all cases.. But in cases of Lunacy, it doesn't always serve as a defence..

teza jose said...

well.. i totally agree with you on the need for rehabilitation when it comes to such cases. But, is there an all perfect remedy to this problem? One that clearly convicts the unworthy and cares for the psychologically scarred? It's something i have been debating with myself about.

Kirti Mohan said...

The perfect remedy is to adopt a combination of reformative and retributive punishment styles and also involving psychology as a separate subject when we study law. Psychology is very very important when it comes to understanding the nature and the significance of a crime.. It helps largely in destroying the crime completely. Every evader of the law must be punished irrespective of his mental health. The degree of punishment is what must vary accordingly. A completely insane person may perhaps seek exception.

Phantom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Uncensor'dmynd said...

I appreciate the depth of the subject undertaken.In fact crime and psychology are two different worlds bridged by conviction. If psychic condition is adjudicated, the question is Who is the actual criminal??Who is to be blamed??Is it the innocuous psychopathic killer or the cruel milieu which provoked him for such ruthless crimes?? Ultimately, is justice served to the victim?? Today, countless innocents who are absolutely normal are unreasonably penalized and the actual villains walk free. unless until evidences have a clean chit, legitimate convictions can always be questioned w.r.t psychology of any crime..

Kirti Mohan said...

You are absolutely right Priya.. These questions stalk all of us.. But it is believed that every tunnel has light waiting towards the end of it right? So lets hope for the best! :-)

And thanks for sharing your opinion with us.

vishesh said...

Finally someone who says what I say! Consensus ad idem.

Vinutha N said...

Interesting revelation !

The consensus of the argument is what keeps it going :)

Keep writing !