When Law met Psychology

What if the two distinct disciplines of study like Law & Psychology come together! While one of them studies human behaviour, the other regulates it. The aim of both is for the betterment of the society. Psychology is the science of mind and the behaviour, it is the study of mind and behaviour in relation to a particular field of knowledge or activity[1]. According to the famous legal jurist ‘Salmond’, law is the body of principles recognized and applied by the state in the administration of justice. According to him development of law comes from popular practices of a society. Some may say that the science of psychology is tangible as it is intellectual whereas law is the accumulation of rulings given by courts. Psychology and law go hand in hand. Without getting into the minds of the people, their usual practice, procedures, nature, want, beliefs and laying down the law to control them will eventually fail the entire legal system because the law is the product of its people’s beliefs[2]. For example, in the early times, the courts were very reluctant to pass a decree of divorce and aimed to protect the faith of people in the institution of marriage but as times and circumstances changed divorce law opened up more space for seeking dissolution of marriage.

Psychology helps to solve issues like eye witness accuracy, police selection, study of the mental state of mind, jury decisions, insanity or civil commitment etc. Section 45 of The Indian Evidence Act, 1872, allows forensic psychologists to lend their expertise in criminal investigations. A forensic psychology expert can help in assessing the mind of an accused with mens rea. According to Indian penal Code, mens rea is an essential part of deciding whether an act is culpable or not. The accused must be proven to have knowingly committed the crime, and had full knowledge of their actions and must have malafide intent towards the victim[3]. A psychologist upon collecting and compiling data of criminals can improve the efficiency of a criminal investigation. They also help in understanding the killer’s next move and the risk & harm  to the society associated with it if they are set free.  A Forensic psychologist  also helps the prisoners deal with stress and adapt to prison life. A lot of therapeutic methods are also being used by the psychologist for the rehabilitation of criminals.

Section 377 of IPC which related to consensual homosexual sex between adults was a criminal offence until the Apex court  allowed the  LGBT community to live life as per their choice. It acted as a major recognition to the community but the psychological beliefs of the people in the society was a major concern. In India, even after 2-3 years of passing of judgement, the psychology of the people haven’t changed towards Homosexuals. The result being at present is that people are divided to accept the LGBT community and treat them in a normal way. Many times the situation demands law to change with changing times to protect its citizens. From being the crime to be repeated  in near future, criminal laws enhanced the punishment to create a fear among the repeated offenders but according to psychological study, a criminal mind does not care about the punishment or the consequences from their actions. This is the biggest challenge which both law & psychology has to address in generations to come.

The psychology of the judge while pronouncing the judgement is also very important. According to the realist school, the law is, in reality, what it means, what the judge says. During the hearing a case if the judge changes midway, then the same case is to be argued differently to get a favourable order. If earlier, the previous judge was not in favour of the petitioners but after the former left and a new one was appointed then the case may have a different judgement altogether. In the matters of criminal law, interpretation of the law is done which is based more on the psychological perspective than the principles and rule of interpretation which are backed by the right and logical reasoning of each judge. Sometimes, the decisions of the judges are influenced by the state of mind, personality, past experiences, or other factors like the legal precedents or political influence or fear of not getting a promotion to higher judiciary. Now-a-days, advocates are doing bench hunting, a method where they manage to list & hear their client’s matter by a particular judge to ensure a favourable outcome because they know that they would be able to play with the judge’s psychological beliefs.

Though corporate law is a popular subject among students, because of the financial returns lawyers get when practicing, psychology has found an important place because it helps one understand how to deal with companies and clients[4].  In case of mediation and arbitration also it is vital. It is very important to understand the mindset of people as a lawyer and psychology helps in it. According to advocate Ramila Nesargi, psychology plays an important role in understanding the mind of the opposition party and guide the client. 


[1] https://www.merriam-webster.com/ Merriam-Webster Dictionary, visited on 05-06-2021 at 17:05hrs.

[2] Sidhartha Sekhar Dash & Ronak Modi- Role of psychology in Legal studies, https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3752253, visited on 05-06-2021 at 17:24hrs.

[3] Maanas Tumuluri- Mens rea and Actus Reus, essentials in crime, https://blog.ipleaders.in/mens-rea-actus-reus-essentials-crime/ ,visited on 05-06-2021 at 18:19hrs.

[4] Bosky Khanna- Combining law with psychology, https://www.deccanherald.com/content/472198/combining-law-psychology.html , visited on 05-06-2021 at 20:13hrs.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

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