The Indian Penal System has its essence from the British. The country with diversified religions and customs required a penal system exclusively applicable to the whole of India. So it was Lord Macauley who drafted the Indian Penal Code which was accepted in 1860 and came into operation in 1862[1]. It was based on various penal theories, which exclude the inhumane treatment of the offenders, and was shifted from punitive deterrence to reformation and correction. So is the Indian criminal justice system successful in fulfilling its objectives of preventing future occurrences of crime, regulating the conduct of offenders, and administering rehabilitative measures? And how it can be compared to the penal system of other countries?


There are different types of crimes that have been committed by people in different countries. Various factors lead to the commission of a crime. Especially considering a developed country like the US, even though violent crimes have decreased, other crimes like murder are surging due to the gun culture that has been followed. The murder rate increased by 4% in 2021 when compared to 2020. There is also a rise in prison and jail populations, overcrowding, and the highest imprisonment rates. Though the correctional and rehabilitative methods are followed still there is rise in the crime rate. The US ranks 56th on the Crime Rate Index in the mid-year of 2022.[2]

In Britain, the penal system is a reformation where it works intending to reduce unfair treatment and provide the importance of sentencing to the public. In 1965, the death penalty was abolished in the case of crimes related to homicide. Britain ranks 66th in the Crime Rate Index in the mid-year of 2022[3].

The criminal justice system of Europe has been facing a lot of challenges, so there are various steps have been taken to reform the system, due to the upcoming challenges concerning developing crimes. The implementation of regulations and strategies for reformation that are applicable at the national level has been developed. One of the countries that set an example for the retributive form of punishment is Saudi Arabia which follows sharia law. Currently, the forthcoming penal code of this country is introducing reforms in which there were recommendations to abolish the death penalty and other inhumane punishments like flogging, stoning, etc.,[4] Most African countries face difficulties in controlling the crime rate due to poverty, low socio-economic status, and other factors influencing the rise in crime. Especially, South Africa ranks 4th in the Crime Rate Index[5]. These countries are trying to implement preventive and restorative justice systems.


As stated above the Indian penal system dates back to the history of British rule, since it was formulated during the rule of Britain. This system is based on the maxim “Let a hundred guilty be acquitted but one innocent should not be convicted”. So the penal system of India follows the reformative theory of punishment which most countries follow as said above. It means the treatment and rehabilitative measures provided to the prisoners. Criminologists believe that every crime has a phenomenon of pathology, physiological defect, and a mild form of insanity, so administering treatments and certain measures can cure and make them live as normal people in society, instead of providing inhumane and retributive forms of punishment. It was also highlighted in the case of Narotam Singh vs The State of Punjab[6], which held that, to secure social justice the reformative approach to punishment must be the main objective of the criminal law and also to provide rehabilitative measures. The Indian Constitution also provides certain rights to Prisoners, like the right to a speedy trial, fair trial,[7] etc., they are not deprived of the right to life and personal liberty just because they are prisoners. The constitutionality of the death sentence was challenged in the case of Jagmohan Singh vs The State of U.P[8] the Supreme Court held that the death penalty is constitutionally permissible, and it doesn’t violate Articles14,19 and 21. From this, it is evident that the death penalty is administered as a punishment but it has been announced only in the rarest of rare cases if the crime is heinous.


Even though many countries follow the reformative form of justice systems like the US, Britain, and others, it is to be noted that the crime rates in those countries are surging. India ranks 79th in the Crime Rate Index, which means the crime rate is lower in US and Britain. According to the National Records Bureau, India’s crime rate has decreased per lakh population from 487.8 in 2020 to 445.9 in 2021[9]. It seems to be noted that India’s Penal System has been effective enough to reduce crime. A further thing that needs to be noted is the issue of, overcrowding in prisons, sexual offenses in prisons, lock-up deaths, and other violent acts, which many countries are suffering from this crisis even India too. This means that a change in the system should be introduced.


Few countries have a successful penal system in reducing crime rates. The one notable system is the penal system of Norway. The unique feature that can be noted is, that it follows the rehabilitative method in treating the prisoners by providing education, skills to make themselves employed, and self-improvement, instead of punishments. The prison has also a healthy environment and a comfortable place that has good infrastructure. This system not only reduced crime but also prevented the consecutive occurrence of crime by the same person. This means that there will be a reduction in the crime rate in the future[10].

From this, it can be inferred that a country like India must also take at most care in rehabilitative measures for prisoners. Providing a healthy environment in the prison also is one thing to be noted, because it can reduce violence in prison. It was even highlighted by Justice Krishna Iyer, that prison should not be a place for delivering bad experiences and he supported the reformative treatment of prisoners.[11] There have already been some of the reforms suggested by the Malimath Committee which stated the appointment of judges to deal with pending cases, reviewing periodically the criminal justice system, the classification of offenses based on their nature, protection of witnesses, etc, which can be taken into consideration.[12] But, there were suggestions in replacing the death sentence with life imprisonment, which seems to be fair but in case of heinous crimes which is the rarest of rare cases death sentence must be provided. So there can be reforms introduced as suggested by the Malimath Committee, improvement in the prison atmosphere, the appointment of women staff, steps to reduce violence in prisons, and also the amendment of punishments.[13]


Even though the reformation and rehabilitation form of the system is followed by other countries they are still struggling with high crime rates, and there is a need for reforms that countries are trying to implement. In a country like India, where the population is too high on comparing with other countries it seems to be difficult to implement certain reforms for the improvement of prison conditions and providing advanced rehabilitation services. Many factors lead to difficulty when compared to other countries which include, cultural differences, political systems, economic systems, histories, and the nature of the crime. So the primary motive of the system in India should be reducing crime with the help of reformative and rehabilitative approaches and bringing reforms to reduce crimes. Instead of focusing on the after-effects, the country can try to control the occurrence of crime even at the grass root level by providing education not only focusing on employment but also on focusing humanitarian concepts, and moral education, ensuring that all children get the education to make them not only economically strong but to build themselves as a better human to lead a better life in a healthy society.

Author(s) Name: Shahana.P (Government Law College, Coimbatore)


[1] The Indian Penal Code, 1860

[2]NUMBEO, visited Nov. 15, 2022)

[3] NUMBEO, visited Nov. 15, 2022)

[4]Human Rights Watch,’s%20legal%20system%20is,flogging%20without%20a%20court%20sentence ( last visited Nov.15, 2022)

[5] NUMBEO, visited Nov 15, 2022)

[6]Naratom Singh v. State of Punjab, AIR 1978 SC 1542

[7] J.N. Pandey, Constitutional Law Of India, 331-335 (58th ed. 2021)

[8]Jagmohan Singh v. State of U.P, AIR 1973 947

[9] National Crime Records Bureau Ministry Of Home Affairs, Crime In India, (2021),

[10]The Borgen Project, (last visited Nov.15, 2022)

[11] Tanu Priye, Reformative theory of Punishment, LAWOCTOPUS (NOV. 15, 2022, 9:21 PM),  

[12]Criminal Justice System of India – Is it time to implement the Malimath Committee Report?,CLEARIAS (Nov. 15, 2022, 9:34 PM),


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