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Criminal Justice System - A Review

NCJ Number
Social Defence Volume: 14 Issue: 55 Dated: (January 1979) Pages: 5-13
S D Gokhale
Date Published
9 pages
Shortcomings in the Indian criminal justice system are reviewed and arguments presented for reforms, such as extensive decriminalization and diversion of cases to channels other than police, court, and prison.
The system is criticized for being based on laws which are arbitrary and for operating to the disadvantage of the weak. A major problem in Asian countries is the ever increasing cost of legal services, resulting in a denial of justice to the underprivileged and poor, who are thus overrepresented in arrest statistics and in the prison population. This situation is being examined through recent studies of hidden crime, which emphasize that the complex relationships between social class and crime, and economic and political power, and the clash of subcultures and crime are all insufficiently understood. Moreover, studies of intentional criminality are beginning to discredit the widely held belief that all crime is the outcome of personal disturbances requiring treatment rather than punishment. The major flaw in the present system is that it imposes sanctions which cause suffering to offenders, whether for the purpose of retribution, custody, rehabilitation, or general prevention: the penal process actually reduces the capacity of offenders to readapt to free society. This injustice generates a credibility gap between the public and the criminal justice system and heightens the status and power gap between the judges and the judged. Two concrete reforms advocated here are decriminalization and depenalization. The former requires a legislative process rendering lawful certain acts that are presently described as unlawful by criminal law. The latter refers to the legislative process through which certain criminal offenses are converted into admistrative or civil matters with nonpenal remedies. Depenalization and decriminalization could be applied to victimless crimes (i.e., public intoxication, vagrancy, gambling, narcotics, pornography, prostitution, sexual misconduct, abortion, euthanasia), intrafamily conflicts, and juvenile delinquency. Thus, the criminal justice system would concentrate on handling severe forms of criminal behavior, and communities would participate more fully in the treatment of nonviolent offenders. Victims of crime should receive greater consideration, and traditional (native) forms of social control (i.e., village councils, tribal elders) should be encouraged to bring the community and the administration of justice into accord.