Muslim judges in India and Pakistan who are fasting during the holy month of Ramadan are likely to give more lenient verdicts, a new study has found. Muslims typically go without food or water from dawn and sunset during this month.
Researchers of the study analysed criminal sentencing data, including almost half a million cases and 10,000 decisions given by judges, covering a 50-year-period in both the south Asian nations that are among the top three in the world with the largest Muslim populations.
Data revealed a “sharp and statistically significant” increase in cases of acquittals from Muslim judges during the month of Ramadan but no difference when it comes to non-Muslim judges, the researchers said.
The study, which was undertaken by researchers at the New Economic School in Moscow, Russia, and released on Monday (13), found that judges in both the countries gave around 40 per cent more acquittals during Ramadan on an average, compared to other periods of the year.
The researchers also tried to understand whether the more lenient decisions given during Ramadan were better or worse than those made during other times of the year. They had another interesting finding — defendants on the receiving end of the lenient verdicts were not likely to commit another crime. The study also said that the lenient judgments were less likely to face an appeal.
The probability of the initial verdict getting overturned was also lesser, Avner Seror, a co-author of the study and economist at Aix-Marseille University in France was reported as saying by media outlets.
According to him, the change in the judges’ decision-making during Ramadan could be linked to “the idea of clemency inherent in the Muslim ritual, a little like the spirit of Christmas among Christians”, he was quoted as saying.
But it goes further because it seems to help the judges make the right decision,” he added.
The latest study’s finding was in complete contrast to what was found by another study in 2011. According to the latter, judges in Israel were more likely to deny parole to criminals before they had their lunch than afterwards. Sultan Mehmood, the lead researcher of the latest study, said he was ‘surprised’ to see such an opposite result.