Video: Centre on the Death Penalty, NLUD: Panel Discussion on Human Sacrifice and Capital Punishment


Dr. Felix Padel (Anthropologist and Author of ‘Sacrificing People : Invasion of a Tribal Landscape’), Dr. Sanjeev Jain (Professor, Department of Psychiatry, NIMHANS), Ms. Rebecca John (Senior Advocate, High Court of Delhi) and Mr. Peter John (Associate, Centre on the Death Penalty) critically examine the cultural, psychological and legal assumptions that courts rely on when they award the death penalty in cases involving human sacrifice.

Introduction | Peter John | The parallel lives of ritual murder by the state and the cult.

Session 1 | 25:13 |Felix Padel | The history and cultural contexts of human sacrifice, the ‘motive’ behind human sacrifices, cultural embeddedness, ritual and symbolic violence, modernity and marginalization, otherness.

Session 2 | 1:09:36 | Sanjeev Jain | The psyche behind culturally motivated crimes, the relationship between mental disorders and superstitious beliefs, possession disorders, ritual murder and shared delusion, the relevance of psychological evaluations in human sacrifice cases.

Session 3 | 1:57:03 | Rebecca John | Challenges to traditional models of motive, criminal culpability, brutality, mitigating and aggravating factors in human sacrifice cases, the rhetorical manoeuvres used in the capital sentencing of such cases.

About the Centre:

The Centre conducts qualitative and quantitative research on issues implicated in the death penalty, facilitates pro bono legal representation to prisoners sentenced to death in India and also engages with multiple stakeholders (including the general public) in the criminal justice system.

The Centre is currently undertaking a nationwide Mental Health Research Project in collaboration with senior psychiatrists at NIMHANS, Bangalore. Through extensive fieldwork, the Project aims to unearth the complex relationship between mental health and the lived experience of being under the sentence of death in India.


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