Pakistani, Indian Muslim judges become ‘too lenient’ in Ramadan

It is quite a job to be a judge and give a verdict without involving one’s personal feelings or conscience. However, it is more of a complication with the “hungry judge effect” hanging over one’s head.

While many studies suggest that judges who haven’t had breakfast or lunch tend to be harsh with their decisions, Muslim judges — in Pakistan and India — have a different approach.

In the month of Ramadan when Muslims all over the world observe fasting, it is quite a concern for the courtroom to be slightly worried about the verdict but luckily this isn’t the case. 

According to the “the hungry judge rule” effect, a 2011 study shows that Israeli judges deny more criminals parole before lunch as compared to after lunch. The lead author of a new study at Russia’s new economic school, Sultan Mehmood, said that such a scenario has the potential to occur during Ramadan. Mehmood is an economics professor in Moscow with a Ph.D.

According to a recent study, Muslim judges are more likely to give lenient decisions while fasting in Ramadan contrary to the previous research. To reach this conclusion, economic researchers sifted through a huge amount of criminal sentencing data, including roughly half a million cases and 10,000 judges, covering a 50-year period in India and Pakistan.

The study finds that there is a “sharp and statistically significant” rise from Muslim judges during the holy month with an average of around 40% more acquittals. The study also found that the judges were “10% more likely to acquit with each additional hour of fasting”. And surprisingly, “defendants on the receiving end of the lenient decisions were no more likely to commit another crime.”

“The probability that the initial verdict was overturned was also lower,” stated Avner Seror, a study co-author and economist at France’s Aix-Marseille University.

Seror said that Ramadan was “well-suited to statistical analysis” because it offers numerous avenues for comparison, from being held on different dates every year to the duration of fasting differing depending on when the sun rises and sets. He suggested that the change in the judges’ decision-making could be linked to “the idea of clemency inherent in the Muslim ritual, a little like the spirit of Christmas among Christians”.

“But it goes further because it seems to help the judges make the right decision,” he added.

As a part of the research, Mehmood suggested that Pakistani judges agreed that they “are too lenient” in Ramadan.

 Considering previous research suggesting that fasting improves the mood, cognition and memory, this remarkable example of judges curbing not just culinary appetite but emotional and moral appetite is the blessings of Ramadan.