India's criminal justice system has been a hotly debated subject recently. That
whether system must priorities punishment or reform is one of the key questions.
"The two strategies' objectives, workings, and efficacy are different. While
some contend that punishment is essential to prevent crime and uphold the rule
of law, others think that reforms is a more effective strategy to lower crime
and advance reintegration. Both strategies will be carefully examined in this
essay, along with their advantages and disadvantages, and any ramifications for
the criminal justice system."
The conventional method of criminal justice is punishment. "The Indian penal
Code (IPC) stipulates a range of penalties for crimes, including as
incarceration, fines, and in rare circumstances, even the death sentence." "The
notion is that individuals who fear punishment won't commit crimes, and those
who do will face punishment proportionate to the damage they have caused. The
death penalty is one of the many possible punishments, in addition to fines,
incarceration, and community service[i]."
Arguments for punishment
"Punishment proponents contend that criminals need to answer for their conduct
and suffer the proper repercussions. "they think that punishment acts as both a
kind of revenge for victims and their families and a deterrent to criminal
behaviour. Some also contend that punishment might provide victims closure and
aid in their recovery first from trauma they have endured. The message that
punishment sends to society is that illegal behaviour will not be tolerated is
another justification for punishment."
"The system upholds societal standards
and contributes to social order by punishing criminals. Moreover, punishment
might work as a deterrent to future criminals, making them reconsider their
intentions to commit crimes. punishment is subject to a number of critiques,
though. One is that it frequently fails to deter crime. Since they do not
believe they will be caught or because the prospective penalties do not dissuade
them, many criminals continue to commit crimes in spite of the possibility of
punishment. They contend that these penalties are frequently severe and unfair,
especially for low-level infractions.
Moreover, they contend that punishment
does not tackle the fundamental factors that contribute to crime, such as
deprivation of opportunities, inequality, and poverty. Moreover, punishment may
be costly, particularly when it entails jail. Last but not least, punishment may
be viewed as a type of retaliation rather than justice, which can feed vicious
cycles of pain and violence ."
Recent research, however, indicates that just enforcing the law does not
effectively discourage crime. "In reality, harsh punishment may increase crime
because criminals may turn to riskier or more aggressive behaviour as a result
of their increased desperation. The root causes of crime, such as poverty,
inequality, and a lack of opportunity and education, are not addressed by
Contrarily, reform is a relatively modern strategy to the criminal justice
system. The humanitarian notion that a perpetrator does not cease to be a human
being simply because he conducts a crime serves as its foundation.
Reform-oriented strategies prioritise addressing the root causes of crime and
supporting offenders' rehabilitation. Instead than only punishing offenders, it
seeks to rehabilitate them and stop future criminal behaviour.
reform may include employment training, counselling, addiction treatment, and
education. The theory holds that criminals may become law-abiding citizens by
treating the root reasons of their criminal behaviour, such as poverty,
addiction, and mental illness. According to "reform theory," a punishment should
be severe enough to result in a change in the offender.[ii]
Arguments for reform
"Reformers contend that the criminal justice system need to put more emphasis on
rehabilitating criminals and addressing the root causes of their criminal
conduct." They think that a large number of criminals have gone through trauma,
poverty, and other challenging situations that have influenced their criminal
Hence, the system should offer offenders opportunities to assist them
change their life rather than just penalising them. These resources should
include education, job training, mental health services, and other support.
Another justification for change is that disadvantaged groups, notably persons
of colour and the poor, are disproportionately impacted by the existing
According to research, even for non-violent acts, there is a higher
likelihood of arrest, conviction, and incarceration in these neighbourhoods.
"Reform proponents contend that the system must concentrate on resolving
structural disparities and establishing a fairer and more equitable society."
Reform-oriented methods to criminal justice have been implemented by many
nations worldwide, and there is proof that suggests that these systems are more
effective at deterring crime and fostering rehabilitation. Norway, for instance,
has one of the lowest rates of crime worldwide and bases its criminal justice
system more on rehabilitation than on punishment.[iv]
"There have been multiple initiatives in India to change the criminal justice
system, especially with regard to juvenile justice." "Instead of focusing on
punishment for young offenders, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of
Children) Act, 2015 places more of an emphasis on rehabilitation and social
reintegration". As well as establishing juvenile justice boards and appointing
child welfare officers, the Act also outlines child-friendly processes and
Yet, there is still more to be done to improve India's criminal
justice system. This entails enhancing underprivileged groups' access to
justice, resolving the underlying causes of crime, and encouraging offenders'
rehabilitation and social reintegration. It also necessitates a change in public
perceptions of crime and punishment, as well as an understanding that punishment
is insufficient to deter crime and advance justice.
Reform, but, has its detractors as well. One is that finding efficient
programmes and treatments can be challenging. Certain programmes may be
inefficient or even destructive, and what works for one offender might not work
for another. Also, when it comprises non-punitive measures like community
service or restitution, reform might be perceived as being overly soft or
forgiving. Lastly, others contend that only particular sorts of offenders�such
as those who are non-violent or have only committed small offenses�can benefit
Efficacy of reform and punishment
"According to research, deterring crime and recidivism may be accomplished
through both reform and punishment. The success of each strategy, however, is
dependent on the particular situation and the offender in question."
"Recidivism rates have been demonstrated to be reduced through reform
initiatives that include mental health care, job training, and education. These
initiatives lessen the risk that repeat offenders would commit crimes by
assisting them in acquiring the knowledge and tools necessary to function
successfully in society."
"On the contrary hand, punishment has the power to stop criminal activity and
make criminals answerable for their deeds. Yet, other factors that may affect
the efficacy of the penalty include its harshness and the circumstances of the
infraction. In especially for non-violent acts, research indicates that too
severe sanctions might actually make repeat offenders more likely."
Implication for criminal justice system
The criminal justice system is significantly impacted by the argument between
reform versus punishment. The decision between the two strategies can influence
the laws, punishments, and rehabilitation programmes and procedures. It may also
reflect greater social ideals of fairness, justice, and retribution.
A shift in emphasis from punishment to prevention might be one result of the
reform vs. punishment argument. The criminal justice system might engage in
initiatives that deal with the roots of criminal behaviour rather than only
penalising criminals after they have broken the law. Initiatives to lower
poverty, enhance education, and increase employment prospects may be included in
Another option is a fusion model that combines aspects of both strategies. For
instance, some jurisdictions have put in place restorative justice initiatives
that prioritise making amends for the harm a crime has caused while
simultaneously tackling the root cause of the offender's behaviour. These
initiatives strive to offer a more comprehensive and efficient response to
criminal behaviour by involving both the offender and the victim as well as
other members of the community.[vi]
Crime is viewed from the perspective of restorative justice as a conflict that
creates a gap or "rent" in the urban cohesiveness of the community." Instead of
the nation and its laws taking centre stage, the focus is still on the parties
to the dispute, openness, accountability, and negotiating suitable remedies and,
to the greatest degree possible, the restoration of the harm.
As crime includes,
affects, and even impedes the community, including and enabling individuals to
participate in the resolution of criminal conflicts that arise in their
communities might counter this trend. This will minimise the perception that the
neighbourhood can do little to stop the crime that takes place there. "Mediation
between victims and offenders has the capacity to drastically change this
relationship. Victim-offender mediation, often referred to as victim-offender
conferencing, victim-offender reconciliation, or victim-offender discussion, is
one of the most blatant manifestations of restorative justice.
In North America
and Europe, this idea is spreading more and more. Nevertheless, restorative
justice gives a whole different perspective on crime and victims through which
to see and approach them. Restorative justice distinguishes three client groups
beyond the offender-driven paradigm: the offenders, the affected communities,
and the individual victims."
In essence, it is crucial to have a conversation about punishment vs. change in
India's criminal justice system. There are arguments on both sides of the reform
vs. punishment issue, which is intricate and varied. Although each strategy has
advantages and disadvantages, a hybrid model that combines aspects of both
strategies is possible. The criminal justice system may contribute to a more
just and equitable society by putting an emphasis on rehabilitation and
correcting structural injustices, while simultaneously holding offenders
accountable and handing down suitable punishments.
- S.M.Afshal Qadri, Criminology penology and victimology 246-257,2017
- Manupatra, http://www.manupatra.com/roundup/334/Articles/
- Sonakshi Chinda, Reformative theory of punishment -Analyzing the status in
India, vol 4 issue 3,Ijlmh,1114-1119(2021), https://www.ijlmh.com/paper/reformative-theory-of-punishment-analyzing-the-status-in-india/.
- Ipleader, https://blog.ipleaders.in/reformative-theory-of-punishment/
- Sindhuza M.S, Reformative theory of India � An Analysis of the need for a
revision, vol6, issue 9 5919,5920(2017)https://journalijcar.org/sites/default/files/issue-files/2855-A-2017.pdf
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