Historically, crimes were largely considered as acts committed against the state or religion, and crimes against individuals were not so prevalent. Thus, often, crimes were equated with sins. However, the concept and pattern of crime have evolved over time, and various definitions of crime can now be found depending on the circumstances. Emile Durkheim defines Crime as an inevitable part of society, to the extent that crime is an integral part of all healthy societies. If we take a legalistic approach, a crime is an unlawful act [as per the law established by the state], and for the commission of which the state punishes the offender.

In the case of Jugal Kishore v State of Bihar, the court held that

The modern criminal jurisprudence recognizes that no one is born criminal and that a good many crimes are the product of socio-economic milieu

It is important to understand and study criminology – to know why individuals commit crime, what are the social conditions out of which crime emerges, what provokes offenders, to improve the criminal justice system. Criminology is a science which deals with different aspects of human behavior that violate criminal law. Edwin H. Sutherland gave a comprehensive definition of the term criminology – the body of knowledge regarding crime as a social phenomenon that includes within its scope the process of making laws, of breaking laws, and of reacting toward the breaking of laws.  

With the increase in crime, the need for criminologists is critical in any legal system as they can determine the origins and consequences of illegal behavior through extensive research and develop strategies to prevent and combat crime. Thus, academicians, teachers, students of criminology, those interested in policy study in the criminal justice system, and those who are all employed in criminal justice agencies and are applying criminology, can all play a significant role in the development of society with their findings in controlling crime by using scientific methods.

A student who has studied criminology will look into every crime differently. For instance, in the Hathras rape case, a student of criminology will try to study how the police as an institution can be made accountable and will try to look at it on a political basis. They will provide a strategic perspective on the criminal justice system as to what defects exist within it and how they can be overcome. Criminologists are trying to have a significant impact on criminal law reform and the criminal justice system. Their findings help officials to develop better and more humane sentences and treatments for criminals. As a result, people who work in this sector must be familiar with sociology, psychology, and other analytical abilities, as well as have an awareness of how science may be used to track out evidence of a crime and its cause.

In the last two decades, criminology has developed as a subject of study and practice. A lot of Indian universities have begun to offer criminology as a discipline and PhD programmes. The number of researchers and academics pursuing careers in criminal justice research is growing, the quality of the Indian Society of Criminology’s annual meetings is improving, and the degree of international participation in these meetings is increasing with each event.

Despite these advancements, the link between criminology and public policy in India remains a distant dream, and criminology continues to struggle to influence policy decisions. This is due to the following issues:

  • When it comes to enacting legislation, the federal or state governments simply offer measures that will help them to obtain votes. For example, the government recognizes that this is a hot and current topic and, in reaction to a well-publicized media report of any particular incident, introduces legislation, gets votes, and then the law just remains on paper.
  • Before enacting laws, the government makes little attempt or no attempt to engage or involve criminologists or think tanks working in these fields in order to have a better understanding of the ground reality.
  • There is no infrastructure, venue, or effort in place to allow academics to share their results with policymakers and support the formation of consensus policy.
  • Scholars, in India, have not been able to tie their findings to current criminological ideas and concepts because they lack proper infrastructure and fail to gather proper evidence, making it difficult for them to produce proper results to publish and make a difference in public policy.
  • The scholars who are working in the field of criminology face a lot of academic pressure and time constraints, due to which it becomes difficult for them to gather evidence and also to discuss and establish an effective relationship with policy makers, practitioners, and legislative staff.
  • Conferences and seminars are the most important parts on which the rest of things depend. But these days, no one takes such pains to organize such a conference out of which some fruitful solutions to the problems can come. Everything has become so politicized that there is constant debate about politicial parties. These days, criminology conferences do not even guarantee the participation of policymakers and other criminal justice system drivers.
  • It is also difficult for criminology academicians to adhere to the word limit when publishing in a peer-reviewed journal, making it difficult to have a comprehensive discussion of the findings that are directly related to policy and practice.

As a result, the best way to achieve and influence criminology in public policy is to raise public awareness of the mechanisms through which policymakers, practitioners, and agencies involved in the criminal justice system acquire and interpret research findings, and then use criminology research. Interactions with groups that will spread information related to research findings and act as a credible means for making research information available to policymakers are also vital. Criminologists must employ more educated and reformed techniques in order to have an impact on policymakers.

The time is ripe for criminologists to participate actively in policymaking and promote the connections between criminology, public policy, and its application. It is high time to make evidence-based policies a reality and to include criminologists and criminal justice specialists in the legislative process. Though, on the one hand, we’re attempting to make criminology a dynamic and exploratory field with an interdisciplinary focus, but on the other hand, the field is struggling to establish its own independent and distinct identity. As a result, criminologists must disseminate the best available research and explain adequate cause-effect correlations, including what is known today versus what may be learned in the future, in order to guide crime-related policy. The federal government should build an infrastructure to track research findings and relate them to policymaking, as well as embrace and prioritize evidence-based policymaking for the development of the existing criminal justice system in India.

About the Author, Ekta graduated from Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur with Hons. focussed on Criminal and Corporate Law. Currently, She is pursuing LLM from Symbiosis Law School, Nagpur in Criminal and Security Laws

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