Criminal Justice Reform Changes


A review of the Criminal Justice System is a need of the hour. The objective of the criminal justice system is to administer justice, ensure safety and security to the citizens by punishing the offender before the filthy act done by him fades out from the memories of the people. In simple words, a speedy trial is what is expected. Despite many stringent orders by the Court, the rate of offences increases each day. The only way to instil faith amongst the people in the Court is by looking back at the reforms the country has made.

Birth of Criminal Reforms

The birth of criminal reforms in India gained importance in different places, at different times. Lord Warren Hastings (1774-85) identified the defects and inequities of the then prevailing Muslim Criminal Justice System. He adopted a triple policy towards the preservation of heritage as far as possible, reorganising improvements where it was inescapable.
Major changes in reform came only after the codification through the Indian Penal Code. It is known as the official criminal law of the land. It was drafted by the first Law Commission under the chairmanship of  Lord Thomas Babington Macaulay. It came into force on 1st January 1862. Since then, until today, it guards its citizens from offenders and ensures justice. The main procedure for administration was given in the Code of Criminal Procedure which came into force on April 1 1874.

Objectives of Criminal Reforms

The objectives of criminal reforms are to prevent the occurrence of crime, to restrict the offenders from committing the crime in future, and to maintain law and order in the society. Through these, the reforms aim to render justice and punish the criminals. A Judge is not only responsible to ensure the offender is to be punished, but to also ensure that the offender does not escape. 

Malimath Committee

This Committee submitted its report in the year 2003. It suggested many changes to be brought in the CJSI.

  • Right of the accused:  The Schedule of the Code should bring under it all regional languages so that people of all regions will be aware of their rights and can enforce them easily.
  • Right to Silence: Article 20 (3) of the Indian Constitution said that the accused should not be compelled to be a witness.
  • Presumption of Innocence: There is a burden on the Prosecution, as Indian Courts follow “proof beyond reasonable doubt”, the committee hence suggested that “if the court convicted, it is true” to be the basis for convicting the criminal.
  • Victim Compensation Fund: A Victim Compensation fund was suggested to be provided to all the victims, and the money for the fund could be appropriated from the funds received from organized crimes.
  • Death Sentence: There should be no commutation or remission. Death Sentence should be substituted for imprisonment.
  • Arrears Eradication Scheme: This Scheme should be brought in and the cases that are pending for more than two years should be settled. They can also be settled through Lok Adalat.
  • Vacation of Court: It suggested a reduction in the vacation of the court due to pendency of cases.
  • Witness Protection: It wanted a witness protection law so that they can be protected and treated with dignity.
  • Classification of Offences: The offences must be classified by social welfare code, correctional code, instead of cognisable and non-cognisable.
  • Judges and Courts: It suggested increasing the population of judges for effective and efficient proceeding.
  • Appointment and Impeachment: Appointment of the Judges is to be taken care by the National Judicial Commission and removal by the process of impeachment through Article 124 of the Constitution.

N.R. Madhava Menon Committee

The Madhava Menon Committee submitted its report in the year 2007.

  • Classification of offences: It suggested the reconstruction of the Indian Penal Code and classification of offences into four on the basis of Severity and Appropriate Response for managing the Criminal system in a better way.
  • It wanted a separate authority at a National Level to deal with the crimes that disturbs National Security.  
  • The Penal Code should ensure that the person who commits a graver offence shall be punished with imprisonment for more than three years which may even lead to death. 

Need for Criminal Reform Changes

India being a developing country evolves constantly, and safety of the people can be ensured only when the reforms evolve at the same pace. The Criminal Justice System in India (CJSI) is the only way to establish a relationship between the state and its citizens. The need for changes in the Criminal justice reform is always talked about as it needs to be strengthened. The cases are not disposed of on time. There is no effective trial. There is always a delay in hearing, lack of accountability, poor maintenance of prisons, and lack of training to the police. These are  some of the significant problems faced by the people in attaining justice. India follows Anglo Saxon-Adversarial pattern. It is divided into three units namely:

  1. Judiciary
  2. Police
  3. Prison 

1) Judiciary

The Judiciary is responsible for the law. It is the parent of the law. The main aim of the Judiciary is to protect and implement human rights. The present system gives importance to the offender rather than the victim. It tries to protect the offender from double jeopardy, presumption of innocence, legal right against arrest, etc. No such right is granted to the victim. As per article 372 (2) of the Indian Constitution, an amendment to the existing provision can be made only through a constitutional amendment. The judiciary has to make changes through speedy trial and has to ensure that if the same kind of heinous offence is committed, the offender is punished stringently. The judiciary will have to follow the following.

  1.  Limitation on the adjournment of the cases
  2. Power to grant the remand
  3. Due care and causation in case of the bail application

2) Police

Police are being placed in the frontline of our Indian Constitution. Decoding Article 246 of the Indian Constitution, it becomes very clear that police, courts, prison, public order and all allied institutions are in the state list.

  • Accountability of police

The Indian Police Act which was framed in the year 1861 has become outdated as it was made during the colonial rule and The National Police Commission is unwilling to make any changes to that law. The Indian law lacks the point recognition to police. Police accountability is the desire of many Executives which might lead to decentralization.

  • Arbitrary arrest and illegal detention.

The power of police to arrest is often misused. In the case of D.K.Basu v. State of West Bengal, the Court opined that protection from arbitrary arrest is granted under Article 21 and Article 22(1) of the Indian Constitution.

There was a restriction on the power of the police to arbitrarily arrest which was decided in the case of Joginder Kumar v. State of U.P.

3) Prison

Article 21 is provided to the prisoners as their rights should also be recognized. They should be assured as:

  1. No one shall be subject to arbitrary detention
  2. They shall be ensured with safety and security in the prison.
  3. They should not be treated in an inhumane manner.
  4. Police personnel who handle interrogation of the arrestee should keep records in a register with clear identification and name tag with their designations.
  5. Police officers carrying out the arrest of the arrestee shall prepare a memo of arrest at the time of the arrest.
  6. The time place of the arrest and venue of custody of an arrestee must be notified by the police where the relatives of the arrestee live outside.
  7. The person arrested must be aware of these rights to have someone informed by his arrest.
  8. The arrestee should be also examined at the time of his arrest and major and minor injuries.
  9. The arrestee should be subjected to medical examination by a trained doctor every 48 hours during his detention in custody by a doctor on the panel of approved doctors appointed by directors.
  10. The arrestee must be permitted to meet his lawyer during interrogation though not throughout the interrogation.

Recent Reforms in IPC

In the year 2016, a bill was introduced which was popularly known as the Anti-Rape bill. The offences were included mainly for protecting the rights of the women. Discussed below are the notable changes made to the existing Code.

  • Section 354: Section 354 which dealt with Sexual Offences against Women was segregated into :
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Assault or use of criminal force
  • Voyeurism
  • Stalking
  • Section 376: Rape

 Punishment for seven years at the least, and may extend up to life imprisonment.

Rape Committed by any Public ServantImprisoned for at least ten years.  
On Death or Vegetative State of the VictimPunishment of life imprisonment, extending to death  
Gang RapePunishment of at least 20 years  
Section 376DA Punishment for Gang Rape on Woman under Sixteen years of ageImprisonment for life and with fine
  Section 376DB Punishment for Gang Rape on Woman under twelve years of age     Imprisonment for life, with fine

Section 509: Uttering any word or making any gesture intended to insult the modesty of a woman: Imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, and also with fine


The current criminal reforms in India are uncertain and underdeveloped. The government takes responsibility by redrafting the Code or by making amendments to it. The reforms when made to the code should not become useless. Hence, its supporting systems (Judiciary, Police and Prisons) should be improved.


  1. Criminal Justice Reform in India: Need of the Hour” published in Criminal Law Journal, Vol. 119, Part 1358, February 2013, page no. 29-32.


  1. What are the notable changes suggested by the Malimath Committee?
  2. Whose pattern does India follow regardings its Criminal Justice and what are the components of such a pattern. ?
  3. When was the IPC recently amended and in what chapters?

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