Neuro-scientific evidence used in criminal cases in US, Europe: Harvard Presidential Fellow

Presidential Fellow, Harvard University and Executive Director, Education and Outreach for MacArthur Foundation Research Network on Law and Neuroscience, USA, Prof Francis X Shen Friday said that neuro-scientific evidence were 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, an 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 had 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 would develop in the coming years.

He emphasized on the need to take a broad definition of both law and neuroscience.

Prof Francis contended that the role that neuroscience plays in law and law plays in neuroscience research and neuro-technology-development have to be understood.

He advised that one should be patient and 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 the perspectives on crime and violence was 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 would 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,” Prof Shen said.

Speaking on the occasion, Justice Madan B Lokur (Retd), Judge, Supreme Court of India, called for revamping the juvenile justice system in India.

In his address, he said that scholars and practitioners of the juvenile justice system need to ask what had been done so far and what was being done and gauge the sufficiency of their answers to these questions.