Criminal Justice Reform: Need of the hour [2020]

Who cares about people in prison? Who cares about people distressing in prison? Who cares about overpopulated prisons? Who cares about delayed justice? Who cares about the cumbersome procedural law?  Who cares about the inequality of justice? Who cares about policy violations? Who cares about the victim of crime? The foundation stone of any justice system is a fair procedure.

Since time immemorial emphasis over fair procedure has been put, but over time it is deteriorating. When we talk about the word reform, it means to bring a change for the better. Thus criminal justice reforms aim to bring a change and fix the errors in the current criminal justice system.

There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice.”

― Charles-Louis de Secondat


The Indian judicial system is independent and justice orientated. The criminal justice system is not only for the accused but for the victim and maintenance of law and order as well.  It is the duty of the court to maintain the faith of people in the administration of justice.

The 3 Major Components of the Criminal Justice System are:

  • Police
  • Judiciary
  • Prison

The intent of the Criminal justice system

The criminal justice system intends to prevent the occurrence of crime and to punish the transgressors and criminals. The rehabilitation of transgressors and criminals is also taken off.

It further tends to compensate the victims as far as possible. It puts deterrence over offenders so that they don’t commit any crime in the future. The eventual goal would be to maintain law and order in society. It is an instrument of social control. The justice agencies work to identify and prevent behaviors that could be dangerous and destructive for society.

Issues with current justice system:

Lack of co-ordination:

There is a lack of understanding and coordination amongst the vital units of the Criminal Justice system i.e. The Police, Judiciary, and corrective organizations. Judiciary has always been criticizing police, because of which even the public lacks trust in the latter. The lack of systemization leads to bureaucracy and institutional prejudices.

Delayed disposal of cases:

According to national crime records bureau

The total prison occupancy in Chhattisgarh was 189.9% in 2016[1] whereas the total prison occupancy rate of Uttar Pradesh was 176.5% in 2018[2]. A total of 90,606 under trial prisoners are there in major IPC offenses as in 2018.[3] More than 60% of our prison population consists of under trial prisoners.  Delay in cases leads to the demoralization of the accused and victim. In the matter of Hussainara Khatoon & Ors vs. Home Secretary, State Of Bihar, Patna[4], the court rightly said that free legal services to the poor and the needy is an essential element of any  reasonable fair and just procedure. Cases linger for years and years. Thus, the faith towards the justice system shakes.


There is inequality of justice. The rich and powerful escape and the poor and destitute suffer.  The growing relationship between crime and politics is making justice difficult for marginalized sections of society. In 2015 the Law Commission submitted a report to government with a draft bill on “Prevention of Bribery of Foreign Public Officials and Officials of Public International Organisations[5] which proposed to criminalise the offence of foreign bribery and punishment up to 7 years.

It has been 5 years that the government has not introduced the bill in parliament.

According to the Law Commission of India report[6] on Expeditious Investigation and Trial of Criminal Cases Against  Influential Public Personalities, mentioned that 1,86,330 cases have been pending investigation from 2011 under the Prevention of Corruption Act & related sections of the IPC in 2010.

Violations by police:

Corruption in the police has reached an alarming level. Crime investigation by corrupt police officials is purposeless for the criminal justice system. It allows real culprits of crime to move freely.  This arouses a big question- are those in power above law? The suspects are ill-treated in police custody. They are tamed and tortured in the name of investigation.  There is a violation of Human Rights in police custody.


Delay in justice is like a rodent that eats up the entire judicial system. The goal of our criminal system should be to impart speedy justice. In the matter of Abdul Rehamn Antulay and ors. vs. R.S Nayak and anr.[7] The court held that speedy trial is a Fundamental Right under Article 21 of the Constitution. The law commission in its 154th report, 1996, has recommended for speedy justice.

Justice should be made inexpensive. People cannot take cases to higher courts because of the high fees of lawyers which is not affordable by everyone. The Strength of Judges in courts should be maintained adequately. There are a lot of vacancies for the post of judges, they must be filled. There are already a large number of pending cases, unfilled vacancies which act a hindrance towards hearing of cases. Special courts could be created for quick and fast disposal of cases.

‘Prisoners cannot be kept in jail like animals’.[8]

Over 1300 prisons are overcrowded even to the extent of 600%. This violates their basic Fundamental and Human Rights of prisoners. The aim should be the reformation of the criminal. The victims must get sufficient compensation. The system should be victim-centric and justice to them must be done.

Custodial crimes, torture and misbehaviour by police needs to be dealt with strictness. Executive must be impartial in law enforcement. The cases must be disposed of timely. Cases are pending from decades. The court should prioritise disposing old cases first. Cumbersome procedural law adds to delay in disposal of cases. Unnecessary adjournment on false grounds needs to be halted. Lawyers strikes needs to be curbed.

Vohra Committee[9] gave a report in 1993 highlighting the alliance of politicians, bureaucrats, and criminals in India. Even after more than 30 years, we are on the same platform.

Criminal Justice


In today’s India there is a high need for reforms in the present justice system. Reforms in justice system is not an option but a compulsion. There is a dire need that vacancies in courts must be filled. The corruption rate is way too high for which strict laws must be made. There is huge gap between laws made and laws implemented, the bridge between the two must be made. People lack confidence in the criminal justice system because it is complicated and has long-winded procedures. However, we should not forget the age old saying that, ‘Justice Delayed is Justice Denied’.





[4] 1979 AIR 1369

[5] Law Commission Report No. 258

[6] Law Commission Report No. 239

[7] 1992 SCC 225


[9] Vohra Committee Report, 1993 See also

Author : Ankita Nandi | College : Kingston Law College, WBSU

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