Cannibalism invites both horror and revulsion, but there is a need to draw a distinction between crimes committed by free intent and those resulting from psychiatric illness. Cannibalism is recognised as an incurable mental illness by the world’s psychiatric community. The intention, if one can call it that, is thus formed by compulsion, not free will, as is the case in most crimes.

Here, a line must be drawn between the afflicted and the affliction because only then is it possible to employ procedures that allow the right and fair treatment of the patient. This is not to suggest any kind of tolerance for cannibalism, but enabling a better and fair understanding of what it entails. Illness cannot be cured by way of a jail sentence or a beating. It is easy to lock up and isolate anyone found to be deviating from the norms of civilised society, but that is unbecoming of the people who attribute value to the appropriate treatment of fellow human beings.

The case involving two cannibal brothers from a village in Punjab highlights the severe limitations of the legal system as well as the nonexistence of any system in the country meant to deal with psychiatric illness resulting in criminal behaviour. The accused had previously served a two-year imprisonment for the same crime after which they were released to return home absent any supervision or medical treatment. The criminal and his insanity are viewed singularly and put behind bars together. While this may reform the former, it only exacerbates the problem for the latter. Anyone equipped with the most basic knowledge regarding cannibalism knows that isolation and mere imprisonment of cannibals leads to the deterioration of their condition. A justice system which is not inclusive of the variety of methods meant to deal with a wide range of criminal or insane behavior cannot be considered effective or just. However, there is not much the courts can do as long as institutions for the criminally insane and other patients suffering from psychiatric illnesses are not set up by the government. So far, there doesn’t seem to be any intention on its part to act on the matter. Until then, the courts will keep sending the insane where they shouldn’t go, only to be released sooner or later to do what shouldn’t be done.