Book review: Jinee Lokaneeta, The Truth Machines: Policing, Violence, and Scientific Interrogation in India

AuthorVipul Mudgal
Published date01 June 2022
Date01 June 2022
Subject MatterBook Reviews
150 Book Reviews
democracies, some specific cross-country comparisons in terms of the policy-dimensions would have
been really illuminative.
Drawn upon a balanced-mix of primary and secondary sources that blur disciplinary boundaries, the
book’s central argument has been developed in a top-down manner: from the realm of conceptual
categories to the field of actual practices. In the process, it contributes to the existing academic debate on
Indian secularism, multiculturalism and their interface with public-policy. It would be useful to anyone
interested in learning about how these issues have manifested in the Indian context. The book concludes
with some thought-provoking observations presented in the form of certain lessons derived from the
Indian experience of accommodating minorities. Among them the claim ‘that plural societies must be
willing to enter a zone of negotiation on their core values’ proves to be especially noteworthy (p. 161).
It extends an open-invitation to normatively oriented scholars to make sense of the value pluralism that
is inherent to the debate, and which proves to be the animating spirit of the Indian society.
Krishnamurari Mukherjee
Krishnamurari Mukherjee
Department of Political Science
University of Delhi, New Delhi, India
Jinee Lokaneeta, The Truth Machines: Policing, Violence, and Scientific Interrogation in India (Hyderabad:
Oriental BlackSwan, 2020), 264 pp. `795.
DOI: 10.1177/23210230221082826
Jinee Lokaneeta shows how scientism can legitimize gaming of the legal system by its own protectors.
Her book unpacks some questionable forensic techniques of our times to bring into focus the interactions
between technology, policing and the rule of law. Common citizens, even judges and the media, take
comfort in the fact that modern machines can be a civilized alternative to physical torture. She makes it
evident that serious violations of human rights occur in the name of science. The main players of the
game, that is, the police, doctors, magistrates and cyborgs (humans and machines combined), enact an
elaborate fact-finding ritual while the courts and the public string along. The book cautions that the cure
of the truth machines can be worse than the disease of police brutality.
The book’s main emphasis is on the everyday part of forensic ‘science’ and the state’s use of coercive
power over the bodies of those in custody. It studies three modern techniques of interrogation, viz. truth
serum or narco-analysis (which uses drugs and chemicals), brain scans (which records brain’s neuronal
activity to track deception) and lie detectors or polygraphs (which track physiological responses like
respiration, heartbeats, blood pressure, etc.). The author also takes the reader through the debates around
these techniques in scientific and legal communities. She interviews multiple stakeholders and uses well-
known case studies to examine why these are not legally admissible and why acquittals happen despite
‘medicalization of falsities’.
The police are central to the subterfuge because they have the custody of the suspect and it is part of
their duty to extract a confession which could lead to a conviction. However, the author demonstrates
with theoretical and ethnographic research that the doctors, magistrates and forensic psychologists
routinely go out of the way to help the police in getting those confessions. And this happens at the cost
of betraying the human body or brain through superficially scientific means. The truth machines represent

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT