The editorial highlights a persistent and troubling gap between the law and the concept of justice. While laws are designed to uphold a society’s principles and values, they are not infallible, and injustices can occur due to their interpretation or application. This gap between what is legally permissible and what is ethically right is a source of concern. The editorial suggests that bridging this gap requires ongoing reform and vigilance in the legal system, ensuring that laws evolve to reflect changing societal norms and expectations. It also underscores the importance of addressing systemic issues, such as discrimination, bias, and access to justice, to bring the legal system closer to the ideals of fairness and equity.
Tag: GS Paper-2: Judiciary; Government Policies & Interventions.
Criminal laws in India; Basis of criminal laws: Universal individualism; Ignored in criminal laws: Social production; Need for reimagining the criminal justice system; Way forward.
The Indian Penal Code, 1860 will be replaced by the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita Bill, 2023, the Criminal Procedure Code, 1898 will be replaced by the Bharatiya Nagarik Suraksha Sanhita Bill, 2023 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 will be replaced by the Bharatiya Sakshya Bill, 2023.
Decoding the editorial: Criminal laws in India
- Strengthening law and order is the intended aim of the new bills, according to the statement of objects and reasons.
- The Bills assume that the law can maintain “public order” by reducing crimes.
Basis of criminal laws: Universal individualism
- The system of criminal law in India is premised on the idea of Universal individualism.
- Under this, the responsibility for crimes lies solely with individual offenders.
- It universally ascribes free will and complete autonomy to all individuals over their decisions, irrespective of their social context.
- But the role of criminal law in achieving this goal is often exaggerated.
- With its exclusive focus on blaming and punishing individual offenders for crimes, criminal law obscures the socially rooted nature of crimes.
Ignored in criminal laws: Social production
- A person’s decision making process and their ability to cope with risks is greatly influenced by their environmental factors.
- Environmental factors like socio-economic status, social upbringing, education, family and friendships, interact with individual psychological and biological factors and influence individual responses to different situations.
- Understanding the dynamics of the social production of crime raises difficult questions about the obsessive and singular focus of criminal law on individual criminal responsibility.
- In fact, the continued prevalence of many crimes is deeply influenced by the socio-cultural realities of our society.
- For instance, the rape culture in our society is a constant and violent reminder of this dynamic.
Need for reimagining the criminal justice system
- The main purpose of the law and order discourse is “demonstrative rather than substantive.”
- Adopting the legislative reform route offers the illusion of strict action from the state without any worthwhile and long-term efforts towards addressing real problems that plague the criminal justice system.
- The potential of criminal law is grossly overstated as it routinely blames individual for crimes.
- It also hides the operations of power that characterise criminal justice administration.
- Along with selective criminalisation and arbitrary application, the disproportionate impact of the force of criminal law on the poor, the vulnerable and the powerless is well-documented across the world and India is no exception to that.
- Therefore, any claims about the neutrality of criminal law and its administration is suspect.
- The strenuous tensions between law and justice play out in violent terms in the context of criminal law.
- Invoke the framework of “criminal justice” rather than the significantly narrower idea of “criminal law”.
- The legislative reforms can play an extremely limited role in preventing crimes and strengthening law and order.
- The law, by itself, can deliver very little of the reforms we need.
- Fundamentally reconfigure institutions that play a role in delivering criminal justice.
- A reconfiguration that is sufficiently invested in fairness, justice, and being effective for both victims and accused persons.
- Our system fails victims and survivors as much as it fails accused persons and mere legislative changes will not change that.
- The institutional imagination of our police, investigation mechanisms, criminal courts, prosecution and defence services, prisons, and support services in criminal justice administration needs urgent and fundamental reconsideration if we are truly interested in an “overhaul”.
Apart from that widespread textual borrowing, there is no overhaul in the approach to criminal law or criminal justice that the new Bills seek to usher in. The empty rhetoric of “overhaul” and “decolonisation” seek to convey something that these Bills come nowhere close to delivering.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What is the gap between law and justice?
A: The gap between law and justice refers to situations where the legal system’s outcomes or application may not align with what individuals or society consider morally or ethically just. It’s when the law falls short of delivering what people perceive as fair or right.
Q: Why does the gap between law and justice exist?
A: Several factors contribute to this gap, including ambiguities in legal statutes, biases within the legal system, varying interpretations of the law, and the changing values and norms of society. These factors can lead to disparities between the letter of the law and the pursuit of justice.
Q: How can the gap between law and justice be minimized?
A: Bridging the gap between law and justice requires continuous efforts to reform and update laws, promote education and awareness about legal rights and responsibilities, and address systemic issues such as bias, discrimination, and disparities in access to justice. It also involves empowering individuals to participate in the legal process and seek remedies when injustices occur.
Q: What role does public perception play in the gap between law and justice?
A: Public perception plays a significant role in highlighting instances where the legal system may fall short of delivering justice. When the public perceives a disconnect between the law and what is just, it can lead to demands for legal reforms, increased scrutiny, and advocacy for change.
Q: Can the gap between law and justice ever be completely eliminated?
A: Achieving a complete elimination of the gap between law and justice may be challenging due to the inherent complexities of the legal system and the diverse values and perspectives in society. However, ongoing efforts to make laws more just, equitable, and responsive to societal needs can significantly reduce the gap and bring the legal system closer to the ideals of justice and fairness.
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