The Tribune - Spectrum

, September 15, 2002

Evolution of criminal justice administration in India
Jawahar Lal Dwivedi

The Constitution and Criminal Justice Administration
by Dalbir Bharti. APH Publishing Corporation, New Delhi.
Pages 320. Rs 400.

THE book under review attempts to discuss and analyse the criminal justice administration (CJA) as applicable to India in the light of constitutional provisions referring to the Constituent Assembly debates and Supreme Court rulings. It establishes how the performance of the CJA has direct impact on the success of the Constitution. The evolution of the CJA shows that it has not been able to keep crime under control; piles of pending criminal cases in courts are causing inordinate delay in their disposal and the conviction rate has declined significantly.

The author has identified areas of failure and suggested certain measures to bring about improvement in the efficacy of the CJA, which comprises the police, Bar, judiciary and prisons. These agencies depend on constitutional support to their principles and procedures. Inadequate strength of the police and judiciary, lack of coordination between the police and prosecution and declining resources seem to be the major factors, which affect the efficiency and effectiveness of the CJA, notes the author. He says there is a need to amend and simplify criminal laws; compensate victims; introduce plea-bargaining; introduce an inquisitorial system; punish perjury; increase manpower in the police and judiciary; maintain coordination between the police and prosecution; bring the criminal justice system under Plan budget for better assessment and allocation of financial resources, and to encourage people’s participation in the administration of criminal justice.


The author has briefly discussed the evolution of the criminal justice system in India, which has evolved over a period of 3,000 years. Socio-economic and political conditions prevailing during different phases of the history of India influenced its evolution. Initially, the law or dharma, as propounded in the Vedas, was considered supreme in ancient India, but gradually the king started making laws and regulations keeping in view the customs and local usages. The system of awarding punishments on the basis of varna contravened the concept of equality of all human beings. The administration of justice during the Muslim period suffered from defects and non-Muslims were subjected to humiliating discrimination. The British adopted new principles by modifying the existing laws. The institutions of the police, magistracy, judiciary and jail developed during that period still continue with significant changes in their structure and functioning. However, the British rulers also, while restructuring criminal justice system, did not fully implement the concept of equality, the author says.

Describing the various components of the present criminal justice system, the author feels the system needs changes. Most of the major criminal laws such as the Indian Penal Code of 1860, the Police Act of 1861 and the Indian Evidence Act of 1872 are still in force with only peripheral amendments. The structure of the police and its working style have not changed much .The indelible legacy of the British era sustains. Most of the criminal laws, procedures, institutions and principles evolved during the British period still govern the functioning of various components of the criminal justice system.

The Constitution, the Indian Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure prescribe the rights and duties of the people to ensure their life, liberty and dignity. Generally, people hesitate to come forward to assist the criminal justice authorities unless compelled by circumstances or personal interests. The author has suggested that with a view to securing justice to the people and punishing the offenders, the functionaries of the criminal justice system should motivate the people to discharge their duties under various laws. Massive programmes should be evolved and implemented to educate and awaken the people about their responsibilities.

The writer feels the necessity for a meaningful and healthy dialogue between the people and criminal justice functionaries, especially the police. Formation of voluntary schemes can help bring the people closer to the police.

According to the book, the crime trends disclose significant increase in the IPC crime rate, especially violent crime. The pendency of cases in courts has increased and the declining rate of conviction of IPC cases reflects the inability of the machinery to deliver speedy justice. Law commissions and eminent persons have pointed out flaws in the working of different agencies and indicate that the CJA is found wanting in its efficacy in keeping crime under control.

The book, which makes a combined study of the Constitution and the criminal justice administration, discussing their reciprocal relationship, can be useful to the police, judiciary, journalists, lawyers and research scholars as well as the common man.