Psychopathy is considered to be an aggravating rather than a mitigating factor in determining criminal responsibility: Delhi High Court

Psychopathy is considered to be an aggravating rather than a mitigating factor in determining criminal responsibility: Delhi High Court

A Delhi High Court bench comprising of Justice Pradeep Nandrajog and Justice Mukta Gupta, while affirming the death sentence awarded to three men accused of raping and brutally murdering a 17 year old girl, prodded on the question of psychopathic crimes and effect of such tendencies while awarding a punishment.

The Court asserted, “It is the dominant view among psychiatrists and the law that psychopathy should not mitigate or remove criminal responsibility…Psychopathy is said to aggravate rather than mitigate responsibility because of the diagnostic features and clinical description of psychopathy. Psychopaths are callous, manipulative, deceitful, indifferent to the rights of others and lacking in empathy and remorse. A diagnosis of psychopathy looks to be evidence not of impairment but of the offender‘s lack of any redeeming qualities that the court could take into account.”

A key aspect of sexual psychopathy is that it is often believed to be virtually untreatable and thus requires long-term confinement or other means of incapacitation. The approach of most countries to control criminal psychopaths has been predicated on the notion that they constitute a particularly dangerous class of offenders. This is based on the combination to commit grave harm i.e. physical, psychological and moral against a vulnerable segment of population particularly women and children and a high probability of repeating crimes unless special controls are exercised.

Explaining such tendencies, the Bench observed, “Psychopathic personality disorder occupies a position at the heart of both forensic psychiatry and psychiatric criminal jurisprudence. This is because psychopaths lie at the intersection between the so-called ‗mad‘and ‗bad‘- that is, between those who clearly warrant treatment (the seriously mentally ill) and those who should properly receive punishment….The hallmark of psychopathy is abnormal or deficient emotional responding.”

The Court spoke about the special legislations for sex offenders in countries like USA, UK and Canada and observed, “The community protection model suggests that the best way to deal with the risk posed by sex offenders is through the use of a combination of social controls, both during incarceration and after release into the community. Such mechanisms of risk management include: longer sentences and detention until warrant expiry date, intensive community supervision orders restricting freedom of movement and association, community notification of the release of sex offenders, sex offender registration, legislatively mandated chemical castration (in the USA), and civil and criminal commitment allowing for indeterminate confinement based on a designation of extreme dangerousness and severe personality disorder. In countries like USA and Canada the clinical models of dangerousness emphasizing diagnosis and treatment of psychopathology have been supplanted by approaches emphasizing actuarial risk assessment and risk management.”

The legislations of these countries includes not only special measures for those offenders at the high end of the spectrum of risk (who are variously categorized as criminal sexual psychopaths, sexually dangerous persons, dangerous sexual offenders, dangerous offenders, sexually violent predators, high-risk offenders, or long-term offenders), but also ensure measures such as registration and notification covering all or most persons who have been convicted of a sexual offence and are capable or repeating their crimes in future.

Anamica (name changed), a 17 year old girl, was kidnapped on 9th February, 2012, brutally raped and found murdered the next day.

As per the prosecution Rahul, Ravi and Vinod were the men who had brutally, extinguished the life of Anamica after raping her. The three were held guilty on February 13, 2014, by the Trial Judge. They were convicted for offences punishable under Sections 302, 376(2) (g), 365, 367 and 201 IPC read with Section 34 IPC.

They were inflicted the capital punishment of death for having murdered Anamica.

The police during investigation recovered the victim’s clothes and the accused clothes when they raped and murdered her. Blood stained matka was recovered from the place where the dead body was found.

The Court also discussed the jurisprudence of prevention, taking the view that the utilitarian theory justifies the need to protect society against psychopathic offenders since they are dangerous and calculated predators and commit significantly more crimes which are violent and aggressive. It added, “Their propensity for violent crimes is higher so are their chances of repeating crimes making them a strong and continuing threat to society. Psychopathy is a significant predictor of violent recidivism. Thus psychopathy is an aggravating rather than mitigating factor in sentencing and results in harsh judicial sentencing or has even be used to justify imposition of death penalty rather than life sentence.”

Confirming the sentence, the Bench said, “It cannot be forgotten that punishment is a moral sanction by the society, not merely a penalty such as a parking fine, which may be imposed without the moral weight of a finding of criminal responsibility.”

Read the judgment here.

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