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COMMENTS ON PUBLISHED ARTICLE
Year : 2019  |  Volume : 41  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 301-302  

Response to comments on “How Does India Decide Insanity Pleas? A Review of High Court Judgments in the Past Decade”


Department of Psychiatry, Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences, Kalapet, Puducherry, India

Date of Web Publication17-May-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Parthasarathy Ramamurthy
Department of Psychiatry, Pondicherry Institute of Medical Sciences, (A Unit of Madras Medical Mission), Kalathumettupathai, Ganapathichettikulam, Village No 20, Kalapet, Puducherry - 605 014
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/IJPSYM.IJPSYM_202_19

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How to cite this article:
Ramamurthy P, Chathoth V, Thilakan P. Response to comments on “How Does India Decide Insanity Pleas? A Review of High Court Judgments in the Past Decade”. Indian J Psychol Med 2019;41:301-2

How to cite this URL:
Ramamurthy P, Chathoth V, Thilakan P. Response to comments on “How Does India Decide Insanity Pleas? A Review of High Court Judgments in the Past Decade”. Indian J Psychol Med [serial online] 2019 [cited 2019 Sep 22];41:301-2. Available from: http://www.ijpm.info/text.asp?2019/41/3/301/258416



Sir,

Dcruz et al.[1] have questioned the use of Pearson's Chi-square test of independence in our article[2] to determine the association between the trial court and high court judgments on the insanity plea in India. The crux of their argument is that the verdict of the trial court and high court is not independent of each other; they are repeated measures on the same subject and are therefore correlated. They have suggested the alternatives of McNemar test and Cohen's kappa statistic to analyze the data.

However, they have not considered the qualitative difference between the trial court and high court judgments. Without doubt, the verdict pronounced by the high court overrules the trial court verdict. For instance, in a murder case for which insanity plea is raised, the defendant is either imprisoned for life or acquitted (institutionalized in most cases) based on the high court judgment. Hence, it is of great interest to know the factors associated with the success of insanity pleas in high courts. Even though the verdict of the trial court and high court is repeated measures on the same subject, one cannot assume that they are correlated. The Honourable Supreme Court of India has clarified that high court, in appeal, either against an order of conviction or acquittal, has full power to review the evidence and reach its own independent conclusion.[3] It is a separate matter that we found a positive association between the trial court and high court judgments. But such an association cannot be assumed before the analysis is done. We maintain that Pearson's Chi-square test is an appropriate method to determine the association between the trial court and high court judgments.

Calculating the interobserver agreement between the psychiatrist opinion, verdicts of the trial court and the high court has been suggested as one way of analyzing the data. In our study,[2] we reported that in 32/67 cases, the psychiatrist who was treating the patient prior to the crime was called upon as the expert witness. Mean duration of 14.7 months elapsed between the last visit to the psychiatrist and the occurrence of the crime. Also, in 41/67 cases, the psychiatrist saw the patient first time after the crime. Mean duration of 275 days elapsed between the occurrence of the crime and the psychiatric evaluation. The expert witness was neither asked to give evidence regarding the mental status of the accused at the time of crime nor was he/she expected to comment on legal insanity. Keeping this in mind, there is no reason to calculate interobserver agreement between psychiatrist opinion and high court verdict. Looking for interobserver agreement between the trial court and high court judgments is more meaningful.

The use of the adjective 'modest' to describe the 17% success rate of insanity pleas in India has also been criticized. We agree that the psychiatrist as an expert witness needs to be impartial to aid the court in the delivery of justice. Consider the fact that there is a widely held assumption among the public that the insanity defense is a legal loophole helping the offenders escape justice.[4] Perusal of the vitriolic online comments to this newspaper article[5] clearly indicates that the public perception of the insanity defense in India is not far different from that in the West. It was in this context we described the success rate of insanity plea as 'modest.' There was no suggestion or insinuation that it should have been higher.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
   References Top

1.
Dcruz MM, Shukla L, Andrade C. Comments on “How does India decide insanity pleas? A review of high court judgments in the past decade.” Indian J Psychol Med 2019;41:301-2.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Ramamurthy P, Chathoth V, Thilakan P. How does India decide insanity pleas? A review of high court judgments in the past decade. Indian J Psychol Med 2019;41:150-4.  Back to cited text no. 2
  [Full text]  
3.
Harijana Thirupala v. Public Prosecutor, High Court of A.P.(2002) 6 SCC 470.  Back to cited text no. 3
    
4.
Silver E, Cirincione C, Steadman HJ. Demythologizing inaccurate perceptions of the insanity defense. Law Hum Behav 1994;18:63-70.  Back to cited text no. 4
    
5.
Insanity plea saves Mumbai man after second murder-Times of India (Mumbai) [Internet]. 2018 July 11. Available from: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/insanity-plea-saves-killer-twice-over/articleshow/64938975.cms. [Last cited on 2019 Apr 20].  Back to cited text no. 5
    




 

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