The recent article of Hindu newspaper headlined Forensic psychologists should
play a key role in preventing crimes, was the statement given by the
Vice-Chancellor P. V. G. D. Prasad Reddy, the Vice-Chancellor Andhra of
University. Furthermore, he said that the role of a forensic psychologist does
not end with reducing crime but should also aim at putting a stop to it.
Back in 2017, the article of Live Mint newspaper titled The case of India's
missing forensic psychologists, highlighted the dearth of forensic psychologists
in India as well as the importance of their work in the criminal justice system.
One example given in the piece is of Dr.S.L.Vaya, an acclaimed forensic
psychologist who provided her expertise in the Aarushi murder case. While it was
mentioned that the evidence, she gave was widely disregarded at the time by law
enforcement officials, it was also reported that polygraph tests performed on
several of the suspects showed that the evidence was quite akin to the actual
sequence of events.
With the background for the position of role of forensic psychologist in India
established, the article will move on to briefing the concept of forensic
psychology and the widely acknowledged roles of forensic psychologists, and
discuss the current legislative provisions and judicial discussions and the
outlook for its development in the future.
Concept of Forensic Psychology
Psychology is the scientific study of the mind and human behaviour. It is
concerned with usage of scientific methods to analyse and assess human
psychological phenomena in order to better understand how the mind, brain, and
subsequent behaviour functions.
It is a multifaceted discipline and includes many sub-fields of study which
focus on human development, social behaviour and cognitive processes. One of its
sub-disciplines is forensic psychology.
Forensic Psychology is defined by the APA as, the application of
psychological principles and techniques to situations involving the civil and
criminal legal systems. Its functions include assessment and treatment services,
provision of advocacy and expert testimony, policy analysis, and research on
such topics as eyewitness accounts, offender behaviour, interrogations, and
Role of forensic psychologists
- Forensic psychology is characterised by its advanced knowledge and skills,
which represent the convergence of legal theory, processes, and law with
clinical issues, practise, and ethics.
- It is a branch of psychology that focuses on matters of law. It
primarily contributes to the timely and effective operation of the criminal
- It uses scientific concepts, methods, and techniques to examine the
minds of offenders and witnesses in order to ascertain the actual facts of
the case, namely the reasons why the criminal committed the crime or the
motivation for engaging in such crime.
The work of a forensic psychologist is diverse and extensive. They serve as an
expert witness in court cases, aid the police in their investigations, offer
guidance on questioning suspects or witnesses, facilitate rehabilitation of
offenders, conduct forensic psychology research or engage in academia.
They are sought both in civil and criminal procedures.
Some of the roles they play are listed below:
Contribution of Legislations towards inclusion of forensic psychology
| Conducting Child Custody and Parenting
Evaluations (in cases of child custody)
|Assessing competency to stand trial
|Conducting personal injury evaluations
|Assessing criminal responsibility
|Assessing civil capacities
|Providing treatment and rehabilitation to
victims, witnesses and accused who went through psychological distress
One of the bottlenecks that the Indian law-making system is facing is the lack
of flexibility and evolution in its legislations. With the continual addition of
newer crimes, the remedies of the statute remain as old as they were when it was
adopted. Though changes are being made, the legislations have a long-broken
bridge that is to be repaired by incorporating contemporary techniques and
In this context, forensic psychology does not have an effective and separate
provision of its own. In the present status, it might be seen as an integrated
factor. The provisions include;
Section 84 of Indian Penal Code 1860:
This provision is considered as a general
exception, wherein the accused is let off on the ground of the act not amounting
to an offence.
Under this provision, an accused is let off on the ground of unsound mind, with
certain criteria's to be fulfilled, which includes;
At the time of committing the act, he is of unsound mind wherein he is
incapable of knowing:
- the nature of the act
- what is either wrong or contrary to law
The role played by a forensic psychologist in this regard, will be the
assessment of the accused i.e., whether he is indeed of an unsound mind or was
not able to understand the nature of the crime.
If the report goes in favour of the accused, no case can be tried against him.
Section 45 of the Evidence Act:- this provision provides for inclusion of expert
opinion as a relevant fact of evidence.
This inclusion is necessitated when the Court has to form an opinion on the
subjects of foreign law, science or art, or identification of handwriting or
finger impressions. The statements of experts are accepted in this regard.
Experts in this provision, can be identified as persons who are specifically
skilled in either of the above-mentioned fields.
The role played by forensic psychologist in this regard, will be to impart their
knowledge and expertise to the courtroom, which acts as corroborative evidence
i.e., a source that supports an already existing evidence. The opinion will be
delivered in the form of reports of in-depth interviews and thorough assessments
of the suspects in question and their testimony to the court.
Judicial Discussion on Forensic Psychology
If legislations play the role of making laws on the one hand, the judiciary
plays an equally vital role of interpreting and furthering its objectives on the
Through the delivery of its judgements, there is a detailed discussion of
concepts, which makes one clearly realise on the relevance of such notion and
its linked action.
With this approach, the judiciary has pronounced numerous judgements, either to
legislative modifications or paving the way for the establishment of entirely
In the landmark case of Selvi v State of Karnataka (2010) 7 SCC 263 delivered
by the Hon'ble Supreme Court, the involuntary administration of certain
scientific techniques for the purpose of improving investigation efforts in
criminal cases is discussed by addressing various concerns such as violation of
constitutional provisions including personal liberty, right
against-self-incrimination; mental privacy and others.
The court did, however, specify the work nature of forensic psychologists by
emphasising their significance in its discussion. The judgement in this respect
states that; "The personnel involved in conducting a `narcoanalysis' interview
include a forensic psychologist It is the forensic psychologist who actually
conducts the questioning. Since the tests are meant to aid investigation
efforts, the forensic psychologist needs to closely co-operate with the
investigators in order to frame appropriate questions."
In the case of Adesh Kumar v State of U.P And Another 2020:AHC:119817, the
Court observed the role of forensic psychologists, which is described as
"the three Tests namely Narco Analysis Test, Brain Mapping Test and Lie
Detecting Test are called Deception Detecting Tests (DDTs) which implies
psychological evaluation of human brain The DDTs are useful to know the
concealed information related to crime. This information, which is known only to
self, is sometimes crucial for criminal investigation. Hence, much effort is
devoted by the forensic psychologists in developing different techniques and
methods to detect lies."
It should be noted that the courtroom deliberations in these cases focused on
the scientific methods employed in interrogations, with just a small part of the
discussion addressing the role of forensic psychologists.
One reason to be appreciative is that the Indian criminal justice system is
beginning to take forensic psychology seriously. Sadly, it is still in the early
stages of development. Even while educational institutes have been set up to
offer a formal degree in this sector, the prospect of it being recognised as a
profession and integrated into the criminal justice system seems faraway.
This necessitates the implementation of steps to improve and develop this
sector, as this will greatly benefit the country's criminal investigation and
justice systems. A possible approach is to expand the areas of forensic
psychologists and use their expertise across different platforms.
- Visakhapatnam: Forensic psychologists should play a key role in preventing crimes, says Andhra University Vice-Chancellor - The Hindu
- The case of India's missing forensic psychologists | Mint (livemint.com)
- APA Dictionary of Psychology
Award Winning Article Is Written By: Ms.Ravani Ukti Nayudu
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