Theory of punishment and its effectiveness in controlling Heinous crimes

The author of this blog is Himanshi Mehta, student of 3rd  year BBA LLBSGT UNIVERSITY, GURUGRAM  


In his well-known book “Arthashastra”, Acharya Chanakya explains that if the king awards heavier punishment than justified, people rise in revolt against him and if the king is more lenient than wanted, he is despised by the people and people do not bother about him but if the king awards punishment according to the Criminal Law to impart justice, he is respected and revered by the people. Punishment is a penalty imposed on somebody who is convicted of a crime. A punishment could be imprisonment, fine or both. It is important to give punishment to those who violate the law, to maintain peace and harmony in the country. With time, the concept and the objective behind giving punishment to the law violators have also evolved.

There are mainly four theories of punishment –

  1. Retributive Theory -

The basis of this theory was to taking revenge i.e. “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth and Blood for Blood “. For instance, in ancient times, if A has murdered B due to their rivalry. B's son murdered A took his father's revenge blood for blood. And this goes on from generation to generation. This theory of punishment failed at that time because blood for blood considered an inhuman, insane and cruel activity that led to disturbance in the state. Now, the Courts severing justice to the victim by punishing the criminal, where the trial has been conducted by state and permit the victim (or relative) to put the arguments forward and imparts justice by punishing the criminal.

By this process, justice served to the victim by punishing the criminal, and peace and harmony also get maintained in the society. Or else, if the rights are given in hands of the individual, the situation could be disastrous that's why state took the right back from the individual and this theory failed badly.

  1. Preventive and deterrent theory –

The objective of this theory was to prevent the crimes. Supporters believe that this theory believes, the state should give such type of punishment to criminals which taught them a good lesson, not only to the criminals but also set an example for all that if any of the people dared to violate any law, these would be the consequences. So, the reason behind that was teaching and preventing the crimes. It’s all was clear to give warning and set the example. For instance, A has done rape or any heinous crime, his private parts would cut off as a punishment. In fact, this type of punishment has given in the foreign countries and their rules are so much strict and the strictness of the rules are must to aware those who all have done or those who want to do something that heinous crime to breach the peace of society and some of the punishments are their i.e. instant death penalty or hanging within 7 days in U.A.E, instant stoned to death or hanging within 4 hours in IRAN, instant death by bullet on within 4 days in AFGANISTAN, if rape is medically proved then instant death penalty in CHINA etc.

  1. Reformative theory –

In this theory, crime is treated as a disease that is, to change the mindset, to reform the criminal, treat him well so that he can recover from that disease. Proper treatment is given to the criminal so that he can be diagnosed.

To understand the reason behind this theory, let’s have an instance, A went to a shop and steal some money. A 16 years old minor has done theft but the reason behind that was their extremely poor living, lack of moral values and education like they can't even afford to buy a one-time meal and because of this criminals become habitual of doing crimes and this is a mental disorder. Moreover, as a punishment, the court will not send him into jail but to juvenile homes to grow and change. The supporters of this theory, believe that government should take preventive measures to prevent such conditioning of a person and make a belief among people like this not to do the crime, and drive some awareness and counselling camps regarding to overcome the crime ratio.

  1. Modern theory – 

The modern theory is a mixture of all above stated and discussed theories.

Retributive theory is applied in the civil courts, it means when a person got damaged by the criminal activity of a criminal personality, then that criminal has to give compensation for the damages or loss done by him. 

Preventive and deterrent theory is applied to the habitual and old criminals so that they feel terrified enough and not to commit crimes in a repeated manner. If the strictness of punishment is not done or shown towards them, then the law and order won’t be maintained properly in the state and this would be reached towards a large number of criminals and also the number of crimes will increase. Therefore, it is wise to punish this criminal rigorously and severely by which other criminals to be warned, not to commit the crimes again and also the people who all are suffering from those heinous crimes can be appeased.

Reformative theory only applied to those who all are new become criminals and juvenile delinquents. Nowadays the education is given to criminals and taught them the lesson of morality, the lesson to be good and peaceful and also the manners to behave like a normal human of good personality. Not only this they have also taught the various craft skills and other lessons of change etc. the treatment also given to criminal sick people who are deeply stuck into this and on the path of being habitual to it and mental treatment is also given to those who all are mentally sick. It is also very much important that state should impose the punishment according to the degree of crime committed, a criminal who has done a small crime should be imposed mild punishment whereas, those who have done the heinous one should be imposed by rigorous punishment.

  • Conclusion –

In my opinion, Punishment for heinous crimes should be strict and for that preventive and deterrent theory will give complete justice to the victim and also, set this a perfect example to all. “ That law is supreme and law voilaters will not be spare at all “. So that one must think many times before committing any heinous crime. According to me, the strict punishments and fast disposal of cases of heinous crime should be there just like in foreign countries. In nirbhaya gang rape case, 4 of the accused were given the death penalty but they were hanged after 7 years. Why? The reason being, India is a democratic country and there are so many remedies given to the criminals which actually they don’t deserve. The number of crimes in our country is increasing day by day because they know, the court is a lengthy procedure and they can exercise their so many rights which led to the pendency of matter whereas victims getting dates by dates. I think, they just focus on the human rights of criminals, not of the victim. One of the accused, sent to the juvenile home because he was a minor who done the most cruetlty with the victin. Criminals of heinous crimes should be given very strict punishment, no matter a minor or major. Crime is a crime. No linience should be given to the defaulters. For instance, for rape- the accused private parts should be cut. For theift- their hands should be cut because, when the crime proved against the accused, they declare themselves bankrupt and released by the court by paying of fine or bail. Then again they do it.

Aplying strict, or harsh and rigorous punishment to the criminals will be terrified and simultaneously, give warning to all, not to commit any crime. Otherwise, the criminal would not be spare. This would definitely help in the prevention of crimes and maintain peace and harmony in the country.