‘Neuro-scientific evidence being used in adjudication of criminal cases’


GANDERBAL: Presidential Fellow, Harvard University and Executive Director, Education and Outreach for MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience USA, Prof. Francis X. Shen, has said the neuro-scientific evidence are being used in the adjudication of criminal cases in the US and Europe wherein experts in brain sciences are called to testify in the courtroom.

Addressing the participants during a workshop organised by the School of Legal Studies, Central University of Kashmir (CUK) through online mode, Prof. Francis spoke on the relationship between brain science and law–a new emerging field known as legal neuroscience or neuro-law.

He also discussed in the light of some case citations, various nuances and niceties of this emerging field and highlighted how these cases have the potential to change the landscape of the criminal justice system in general and juvenile justice system in particular.

Prof. Francis also spoke about three bedrock principles for understanding how law and neuroscience will develop in the coming years. In the first principle, he emphasized on the need to take a broad definition of both law and neuroscience.

In the second principle, he contended that the role that neuroscience plays in law and law plays in neuroscience research and neuro-technology-development have to be understood.

In the third principle, he advised that we should be patient and be prepared for significant changes along the many dimensions of law and neuroscience. Prof. Shen reiterated that in the present academic world the disciplinary parochialism in our perspectives on crime and violence is giving way to the interdisciplinary paradigm.

Accordingly, the research centres and universities should revisit their traditional academic lenses and give space to this emerging field of neuroscience and law in their curricula. He contended that the application of neuroscience to legal jurisprudence will necessitate evolution of different approaches to crime and punishment.

“The commission of crime is first approved by the brain, followed by its signals to other parts of the body for its execution. The present legal theories attempt to study only omissions or commissions without studying the state of affairs of the brain at a given point of time that commands the crime. The application of neuroscience to subjects of law will help in delivering real justice as against technical justice which is being espoused by the present justice delivery system.”   

Also speaking on the occasion, Justice Madan B. Lokur (Retd.), Judge, Supreme Court of India, called for revamping of the juvenile justice system in India. In his address, he said that scholars and practitioners of the juvenile justice system need to ask what has been done so far and what is being done and gauge the sufficiency of their answers to these questions. He dissected the word CARE when it comes to child care and protection and elaborated on the multi-dimensionality of the term “care.”

He gave a kaleidoscopic analysis of this term by highlighting the various shades that come under its ambit. Defining the word ‘care’ as an umbrella term, he discussed its various dimensions like the need to ensure the care regarding food and shelter, education, health and safeguarding of the child’s emotional security.

He emphasized on the training and child sensitivity of the officers who are working in the Juvenile Justice Boards, Child Protection Committees and Shelter Homes.

He highlighted how the universities have a vital role to play in conducting the necessary research and field studies and thereby enhancing the efficacy and efficiency of the juvenile justice system in India.

He advised that credible NGO’s be roped in to help the helpless children whether they are in conflict with law or need care and protection. “Every effort be made to see that children in need of care and protection are returned to their parents as the care of children includes emotional, psychological, intellectual and physical.”

The remarks assume a lot of significance in view of the J&K situation especially during the covid19 pandemic. This has heightened the susceptibility of children to abuse and delinquency.


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