Law was there when people used to live in tiny family groups taking
everything that they needed. It was the Sacred Law. There was no law for
property except that everything must be shared. There was no law for money
because they didn’t have any. There was no law for houses, cars, grog, petrol or
drugs—they didn’t have any except for bush tobacco which was shared like
everything else they had.
The only way to punish was physically, by beating or killing the law breaker.
They couldn’t be fined, as they had no money or wealth to take. They couldn’t be
locked up, as there were no jails. Everybody knew what they had to do to make
sure that everybody survived. Everybody was taught to fight as defend oneself
and family. We had no army, no police, and no courts.
Everybody knew how to use a weapon; women and men both learned to fight and knew
they would have to do that sometime. They also believed that our Law Man can
make magic, they can heal the sick but they can also make people sick and die by
magic. That is what all people believed. People kept peace by fear of violence
Now we live in a world ruled by the new law that is not sacred, that doesn’t
accept that magic exists. Now we are all equal citizens with human rights. Now
we have property, houses, cars, grog, drugs, and pornography. The old Law worked
really well in the old days but it was not about human rights. It was about
unconditional loyalty to kin, to family and following the sacred Law. It was
about capital and physical punishment. There were wise old people who tried to
make sure that there was justice. But they are all dying now. There is nothing
in the old Law that helped in dealing with grog and drugs. But we still respect
our ancestors and we still want to keep our culture.
The youth is caught in the middle, they are still part of the old Law but they
live in a world run by the new law. Lawyers are only interested in the rights of
the clients be it the perpetrator himself. They will do whatever they can to
make sure that murderers and rapists and child abusers are protected from the
new law. They will only advocate acknowledging traditional law when they think
it will work better for their clients, the perpetrators. But they don’t know how
the old Law worked.
They never worry about the victims who have had their basic human rights ignored
and trampled on by members of their own communities, their own families. Our
problem is that on one hand, we want to keep our culture. We want to respect our
ancestors and their Law but we also want to be equal citizens and we want human
rights. We can’t do that without changing our Law.
The last few decades have witnessed major advances in scientific knowledge,
legendary scholarly debates and pivotal contributions to research, policy, and
practice. Criminology is a dynamic and evolving field of study.
Criminology, derived from Latin word crīmen meaning accusation; and Greek
word -λογίαn meaning -logia, is the scientific study of the nature,
extent, causes, and control of criminal behavior in both the individual and in
Criminology is an interdisciplinary field in the behavioral sciences, drawing
especially upon the research of sociologists (particularly in the sociology of
deviance), psychologists and psychiatrists, social anthropologists as well as on
writings in law.
History of Criminology
Criminology developed in the late 18th century, when various movements, imbued
with humanitarianism, questioned the cruelty, arbitrariness, and inefficiency of
the criminal justice and prison systems. During this period reformers such as Cesare
Beccaria in Italy and Sir Samuel Romilly, John Howard, and Jeremy Bentham in
England, all representing the so-called classical school of criminology, sought
penological and legal reform rather than criminological knowledge.
Their principal aims were to mitigate legal penalties, to compel judges to
observe the principle of nullapoena sine lege (Latin: due process of law
to reduce the application of capital punishment, and to humanize penal
institutions. They were moderately successful, but, in their desire to make
criminal justice more just, they tried to construct rather abstract and
artificial equations between crimes and penalties, ignoring the personal
characteristics and needs of the individual criminal defendant. Moreover, the
object of punishment was primarily retribution and secondarily deterrence, with
reformation lagging far behind.[ii]
In the early 19th century the first annual national crime statistics were
published in France. Adolphe Quetelet (1796–1874), a Belgian mathematician,
statistician, and sociologist who was among the first to analyze these
statistics, found considerable regularity in them (e.g., in the number of people
accused of crimes each year, the number convicted, the ratio of men to women,
and the distribution of offenders by age).
From these patterns, he concluded that there must be an order to those things
which…are reproduced with astonishing constancy, and always in the same way.
Later, Quetelet argued that criminal behavior was the result of society’s
structure, maintaining that society prepares the crime, and the guilty are
only the instruments by which it is executed.
Whereas Quetelet focused on the characteristics of societies and attempted to
explain their resulting crime rates, the Italian medical doctor Cesare Lombroso (1836–1909)
studied individual criminals in order to determine why they committed crimes.
Some of his investigations led him to conclude that people with certain cranial,
skeletal, and neurological malformations were born criminal because they were
biological throwbacks to an earlier evolutionary stage.
Highly controversial at the time he presented it; his theory was ultimately
rejected by social scientists. Lombroso also contended that there were multiple
causes of crime and that most offenders were not born criminal but instead was
shaped by their environment. The research of both Quetelet and Lombroso
emphasized the search for the causes of crime—a focus that criminology has
Crime And Criminology
Criminology is the scientific study of the nonlegal aspects of crime and
delinquency, including its causes, correction, and prevention, from the
viewpoints of such diverse disciplines as anthropology, biology, psychology and
psychiatry, economics, sociology, and statistics.
A normative definition views crime as deviant behavior that violates
prevailing norms– cultural standards prescribing how humans ought to behave
normally. This approach considers the complex realities surrounding the concept
of crime and seeks to understand how changing social, political, psychological,
and economic conditions may affect changing definitions of crime and the form of
the legal, law enforcement, and penal responses made by society.
Viewed from a legal perspective, the term crime refers to individual criminal
actions (e.g., a burglary) and the societal response to those actions (e.g., a
sentence of three years in prison). By comparison, the field of criminology
incorporates and examines broader knowledge about crime and criminals. For
example, criminologists have attempted to understand why some people are more or
less likely to engage in criminal or delinquent behavior.
on crime were a departure from conventional notions.
Durkheim rejected the definition of the crime, which would constitute the common
sense of any society, that crimes are acts that are harmful to society. He
pointed to the enormous variations between societies in the acts, which have
been regarded as criminal in order to rebut the claim that conceptions of crime
are rooted in the social evil represented by particular actions.[iii] The only
attribute applicable to crimes, in general, is that they are socially prescribed
‘The only common characteristic of all crimes is that they consist… in acts
universally disapproved of by members of each society… crime shocks sentiments,
which, for a given social system, are found in all healthy consciences. Crime
Durkheim, ‘is a universal feature of all societies. This is because crime serves
a vital social function. Through the punishment of offenders, the moral
boundaries of a community are clearly marked out, and attachment to them is
The purpose of punishment is not deterrence, rehabilitation nor retribution.
Punishment strengthens social solidarity through the reaffirmation of moral
commitment among the conforming population who witness the suffering of the
The cause of crime is one of the major research areas in criminology. By the
twenty-first century, criminologists looked to a wide range of factors to
explain why a person would commit crimes. There are certain factors in our
societies, cultures (family values), system (educational, political,
law-enforcement…), economy, and so on that endorse the potential of criminal
activities of an individual.
Usually, a combination of these factors is behind a person who commits a crime.
Reasons for committing a crime include greed, anger, jealousy, revenge, or
pride. Some people decide to commit a crime and carefully plan everything in
advance to increase gain and decrease risk. These people are making choices
about their behavior; some even consider a life of crime better than a regular
job—believing crime brings in greater rewards, admiration, and excitement—at
least until they are caught. Others get an adrenaline rush when successfully
carrying out a dangerous crime. Others commit crimes on impulse, out of rage or
What causes a specific individual to break a taboo, a social sanction, or a law
has ever been an enigma to society.[iv] Crime, as well as immorality, is the
backwash of a culture.
As Professor Frank Tannenbaum has eloquently expressed it:
Crime is eternal – as eternal as a society. So far as we know, human fallibility
has manifested itself in all types and forms of human organization. Everywhere
some human beings have fallen outside the pattern of permitted conduct. It is
best to face the fact that crime cannot be abolished except in a non-existent
utopia. Weakness, anger, greed, jealousy – some form of human aberration – has
come to the surface everywhere, and human sanctions have vainly beaten against
the irrational, the misguided, impulsive, and ill-conditioned.
For reasons too subtle and too complex to understand, the ordinary pressures and
expectancies that pattern the individual’s conduct into conformity break down in
given instances. They have always done so: they always will. No way of drawing
the scheme of the good life has yet been discovered which will fulfill the needs
of all human beings at all times.
Crime is, therefore, an ever-present condition, even as sickness, disease, and
death. It is as perennial as spring and as recurrent as winter. The more
complex society becomes, the more difficult it is for the individual and the
more frequent the human failures. Multiplication of laws and of sanctions for
their observance merely increases the evil. Habituation becomes more difficult
in a complex society, and the inner strains grow more obvious.
Moreover, as society moves, its definitions and structures changes. As cultures
change and the political environment shifts, societies may criminalize or
decriminalize certain behaviors, which directly affect the statistical crime
rates, influence the allocation of resources for the enforcement of laws, and
(re-)influence the general public opinion.
The challenge also arises when the law tries to keep up with rapid technological
developments. For e.g. one recurring issue arising from the global nature of the
internet in which courts have jurisdiction over material on the internet, that
is, which courts have the right and authority to hear a case and have the law of
their nation apply to it and many such other issues.[v]
This era is seeing a lot of activities in the mobile ecosystem as new companies
are coming up with new models of communication devices, mobile phones, and
tablets. As more and more people move on to the mobile ecosystem, the use of
mobile devices and content generated therefrom are likely to bring forth
significant new challenges for cyber legal jurisprudence across the world.
A number of jurisdictions across the world do not have dedicated laws dealing
with the use of communication devices and mobile platforms. As more and more
people use mobile devices for output and input activities, there will be
increased emphasis on meeting up with the legal challenges emerging with the use
of mobility devices, more so in the context of mobile crimes, mobile data
protection, and mobile privacy.
Already, social media is beginning to have its social and legal impact. As per
one study, Facebook is responsible for one-third of the divorces that have been
filed in recent times. As social media websites continue to become the fertile
ground for targeting by all relevant lawyers, law enforcement agencies and
intelligence agencies, social media continues to become the preferred repository
of all data.
As such, social media crimes are increasing dramatically. Inappropriate increase
in the use of social media thereby leads to various legal consequences for the
users. The concept of privacy in the context of social media is going to be
greatly undermined, despite efforts to the contrary made by some stakeholders.
Cyber lawmakers across the world will have to face the unique challenge of how
to effectively regulate the misuse of social media by vested interests and
further how to provide an effective remedy to the victims of various criminal
activities on social media.
There is likely to be an increase in litigations across the world, which has a
connection, association, and nexus with the output of social media in one form
or the other. Already, social media defamation litigations have started.
Further, various matrimonial actions have started across the world which uses
the output of social media. The coming years are further likely to see the
enhancement of litigations across the world as far as the use of the output of
social media, being data and information resident on social media networks, will
be concerned. The aforesaid are some of the important Cyberlaw trends that are
likely to emerge.
These are based on an analysis of the emerging jurisprudence in Cyberlaw up to
date. Given the rapid pace of growth of technology, it is not possible to
overrule any other new or major technological trend emerging which could have a
direct impact on the growth of Cyberlaw.[vi]
The two main factors affecting social interaction are an increase in population
density and advances in technology, most notably in the fields of communication
and transportation. This is because population growth and technology advances
increase social connectivity, leading to interactions that differ in quantity,
intimacy, frequency, type, and content. This also results in changes of law, for
e.g., earlier, there was no law of divorce .and other legislation according to
Criminology As A Separate Branch of Study
Despite tremendous promise and considerable potential, Criminology as a subject
in this country is in a state of avoidable neglect and apathy.[viii]
Teaching of criminology at degree and post-degree level is not extensively
available as there are only a very few institutions providing teaching, research
or practices in criminology. The situation has resulted in many untoward
outcomes. For instance, the academic openings and a broad network of
academicians in criminology could not grow in India.
Criminology in India has not been able to foster a clear cut beneficiary base.
Linkages between practice and profession in criminology are obscure and
unexplored. On account of being mainly associated with their parent disciplines,
the researchers who made commendable contributions to criminology remained
indifferent to the development of criminology in India.
The basic researches in criminology India leading to the development of theories
explaining the major problems of criminality in this country have been almost
nonexistent. Nor do the criminologists, in most cases, have been able to
prescribe policies and programs oriented research findings.
Criminology in India also lacked international focus and recognition. Combined
together, criminology is largely perceived as a discipline with restricted
avenues and limited vertical mobility in career advancement in India.
Research Priorities: Futuristic Vision
Research priorities in the academic discipline are relative and time specific.
These need to be seen at two levels: one, at the international level to
understand the trends and emphasis in research. This is significant from the
standpoint of the academic growth of the subject in the international context.
Second, the discipline ought to address the problems of contemporary nature with
a possible contribution to policy and planning.
Going by this, it would be logical to suggest that the research priorities in
criminology must be guided by the gaps in research suggested in the preceding
section. Following areas are worth considering as priorities in criminological
1. Basic research contributing to the indigenous understanding of major forms
2. Evolving database and information based on non-government sources.
3. Areas like victims of kidnapping, terrorism, organized crimes involving
secondary victimization, restitution, restorative justice, system as victim,
political criminology unraveling nexuses, vulnerability of political processes
for criminalization, radical criminology, action criminology, pragmatic
criminology, social tolerance of deviance, decriminalization, economics of crime
and justice, impact of imprisonment, forensic psychology, Environmental
criminology including crime profiling, GIS applications and crime mapping,
situational crime prevention, alternatives to imprisonment, community sentence,
continuum of criminal justice process, fear of crime, victimization survey, risk
of victimization are in need of systematic research attention and form
priorities in research in criminology in the times ahead.
4. Focus on the strong implementation of existing laws so as to increase
people’s faith in the law. The present law is adequate but what is required is
an effective investigation, prosecution, and speedy trial. Fast track courts in
all states are a necessity. Existing law provides for serious punishment. It is
not always necessary that death sentence or severe punishment would act as a
deterrent. The problem is not the law; the need is to change the societal
The attitude towards crime and criminals must be changed. Supreme Court advocate
Krishan Mahajan is against any changes in the law. Enhancement in penalty may
mean that best evidence is gone. Rapists may increasingly tend to kill their
victims to wipe out any evidence. Now at least, the victim can give her
testimony, appear in court and identify the perpetrator of the crime and say
what has happened.
Under the law, the best evidence is the victim herself. In case the victim is
brutalized and dies, there is no hope of recording the statement of the key
witness. That’s why the rapists will finish off the victim. No law is good
enough if it is not implemented properly. Howsoever strong the law is, the case
is lost if the police do not conduct a proper investigation.
Investigation too must be done by the police properly, fairly and there must be
a time limit fixed as the police sometimes takes a decade also to investigate
any matter. If such long time periods are involved then the probability of
tampering with evidence increases and justice is rarely given in such cases.
5. India follows a punishment theory which is more Restitutive in form than
Repressive. Restitutive laws require an offender to pay for the harm he did to
whoever was affected by his crimes, or he is just asked to comply with the law.
In Restitutive law, the punishment focuses on reforming the perpetrator and
attacks the social status of that person so as to make him realize his guilt. A
Repressive law system is one in which any lawbreaker is severely punished for
But recent trends in the crime graph show an alarming increase in the rates of
crimes in the country for the past few years. Such an increase is a clear
depiction of the fact that the existing theory of crime prevention is not
instrumental in controlling the crime graphs. Therefore there is a need to bring
about a change in the existing theories of punishments.
6. Criminology should also take into account the conditions of the criminals
going back into society. When after completing his punishment, the criminal
after due reformation is sent back into society. But due to his newly gained
social status as a criminal, the person even after due payback for his actions
is not allowed to gain back is earlier status. Moreover, he is not even allowed
to be a part of that society anymore.
In short, the person losses his/her social life completely. Apart from this,
there is the problem of employment. Nobody is ready to give employment to such a
person no matter what his qualifications are. Criminology should study such
matters and direct the Government to help such persons or make arrangements for
their proper restitution so that the interest of those who are now remorseful
and has properly paid for his deeds is not denied of a second chance.
7. Apart from these, there are certain crimes in which the perpetrator is the
society itself. For example, in Dowry cases, the society itself imbibes in the
minds of the people that this is a ritual and is not a crime. So, if a person of
that society asks for Dowry, it is because he does not consider it as a crime.
Here, the whole society is at fault and not that particular person. Criminology
should hence take into account these matters and decide on it that in such
cases, who should be brought to trial and who should be punished.
8. The number of judges in the Indian Judiciary should also be one of the
research areas of Criminology. There is an urgent need to increase the strength
of judges. Backlogging is a product of Inadequate judge-population ratio
and lack of infrastructure.
Law Commission of India on 31st July, 1987 submitted its 120th report on
Manpower Planning in Judiciary
in which it compared India’s judge-population
ratio vis-à-vis developed countries and found that the ratio in India is 10.5
judges per million people (lowest in the world) as compared to 41.6 per million
people in Australia, 75.2 per million people in Canada, 50.9 per million people
in United Kingdom and 107 per million people in United States of America (which
was three times less populated than India in 1981 had 25,037 judges as compared
to India’s total judge strength of 7,675 at that time).
The Central (Government) has failed in its objective to extend the judge
strength to 107 judges per million people by the year 2000 as recommended by the
Law Commission of India. Even The Honorable Supreme Court of India in All
India Judges Association &ors. V. Union of India &Ors
.[x] observed that
judge strength should be increased by 10 per million people every year for 5
years to meet at least the desired ratio of 50 to a million people. This
observation too fell on the center’s deaf ears.
9. Need is also to make the criminological literature produced in India
available on the Internet.
10. A look at the performance of criminology and concerned institutions abroad
(viz., U.S., UK, Australia) can provide the needed insight in developing this
subject in India as a vibrant discipline with amazing potential.
11. To grow and sustain, teaching and research in criminology need to be made
widely available like any other social science subject.
To develop and sustain Criminology as a discipline of learning and applications,
there is a need to work on the gaps and problems identified in the research
survey. The UGC, ICSSR and the Institutions already working in this area are
required to display greater concern for this subject. The UGC can think of
establishing centers for excellence in criminology. The matter can also be taken
up with the Government agencies and organization for considering the subject in
their recruitment process.
The UGC or Ministry of Human Resource Development can do the needful into this
matter. The bodies like Indian Society of Criminology must act in this
direction. The UGC and ICSSR may consider of greater and separate funds
allocation for researchers in Criminology. The developing of standard syllabi in
criminology may also be given attention to.
Criminology in India is surely coming of age. Quality and quantity of research
in criminology has shown improvement. Criminology in India has grown to be a
multidisciplinary subject in a true sense. Despite shortcomings found and
expressed in the present Report, Criminology as a subject of learning and
research has tremendous promise and potential for a country like India. If
nurtured and developed in a correct way and direction, it can contribute to the
larger objective of safe living and order in society.