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Unreformable Criminal Justice


Our criminal justice system is burdened with various problems and any step in the direction of reforming this system needs to understand these problems and accept them as they are.


GS-II: Important Aspects of Governance, Transparency and Accountability, E-governance- applications, models, successes, limitations, and potential; Citizens Charters, Transparency & Accountability and institutional and other measures.

Dimensions of the Article

  • India’s Criminal Justice System
  • Issues with the Criminal Justice System
  • What can be done?
  • Way Forward

India’s Criminal Justice System

  • India’s Criminal Justice System is facing issues both at the institutional as well as functionary level.
  • Professor Andrew Ashworth says, “A just and coherent criminal justice system is an unrealistic expectation of the people.”
  • Institutional responses to the issues must accept the depth of the root cause of the problems.

Issues with the Criminal Justice System

  • Disposal of pending cases. More than 4.4 Cr cases pending before the judiciary.
  • Justice mechanisms are inaccessible to the marginalized. As Amartya Sen said, our justice system follows a transcendental institutionalist approach where the focus is on getting the institutional arrangements right without regard to the world that emerges from such arrangements.
  • Abuse of Power by the police. Colonial mindset in the insitutioon is still persistent.
  • Crime Prevention being the utopian goal of our criminal justice system. Neither laws nor policing has prevented crimes. Higher punishments too haven’t been a deterrent.
  • Diversionary principles in the treatment of offenders are yet to materialize. Recommendations of various committees etc. are still pending.
  • Dearth of state-sponsored collection and maintenance of data. Even National Crime Records Bureau has many issues with its data collection methodologies.

What can be done?

  • Once we accept the issues we can focus on dealing with them without groundbreaking reforms but simple implementations.
  • For Example, Capacity Building of marginalized sections, imposing statutory and ethical obligations on police and punishing them for errors and omissions.
  • Refrain from over-criminalizing conduct of the perpetrators.

Way Forward

The problems have to be considered the part of reality and then worked upon by the panels and scholars while deciding reforms. Holistic reforms must be the aim, where we cure the system of the disease and not just relieve the symptoms.

Source – The Hindu

December 2023