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Sivapuram V.L. Thejaswini, from Alliance University, Bangalore.

Date: 25.04.2021


1. Abstract :

“He who does not prevent a crime when he can, encourages it,”


When he uttered these famous words, the ancient Roman philosopher unwittingly described criminology, the modern study of crime.

Criminology is an interdisciplinary field of study that focuses on crime and the responses to crime. Criminology is an interdisciplinary field that brings together scholars, clinicians and other professionals from all types of disciplines to seek an understanding of some of the behaviours that have deep and broad consequences for society. Criminology is a field primarily interested in acts constituted as crimes and the subsequent social responses to these criminal acts.


While there has been a general consensus among scholars and researchers that criminology should include the study of law, the causes of crime, and the responses of society (including responses by citizens, criminal justice professionals, and institutions) to criminal acts, there continues to be disagreement regarding what should be considered a crime and what specifically should be included under the purview of criminology[1].


The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the development of Criminology in India and the state of embedding criminologists in the Criminal Justice System (CJS). It further emphasizes on the need to fill in gaps left in ‘applied nature of Criminology’.




2. Research Problem :

One of the major impediments to the growth of Indian Criminology is Government’s

reluctance. The reluctance of the system is hampering the growth of Indian Criminology

and one major example is opaqueness shown by the system to allow researchers to study

the system from within.

There was no opportunity given to the criminologists & criminology as a separate discipline in our Criminal Justice System.


3. Introduction :

India is different than other countries on many aspects like culture, demography, sex ratio, literacy & religious constitution. It is necessary to look at the problem of crime in India from these perspectives. Crimes are intimately linked to social problems, poverty, governance and national policies which are unique to every country. Thus it is necessary to adopt original and indigenous criminological approaches to assess the Indian crime problems. The growth of Criminology in India is evident in the academic sphere but the same has not been transcended within the Criminal Justice System of India.


4. Literature review :


4.1. History of Criminology in India –

Ø  Criminology is a word derived from the latin & Greek language – ‘Crimin’ from the word ‘crimen’ means an accusation, ‘logy’ from the Greek word ‘logia’ which means ‘study of’.


Ø  The inception of Criminology in India was different as compared to the way it was established in the western world. In the west, criminology was introduced through the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, which mainly focused on the role of government and inequality/discrimination arisen due to the power dynamics associated with the ruling class.


Ø  Criminology was initially introduced in the Criminal Justice System (CJS) of India by the interventions of American Criminologist, Professor Walter. C. Reckless (who visited India in 1951 to study and recommend solutions to reform prisons and correctional services). Reckless was invited by the Government of India for the concern raised by the then Prime Minister of India ‘Shri. Jawahar Lal Nehru’ regarding improving conditions of prisons in India


Ø  In this important turning point in the development of Criminology in India, J. M. Kumarappa the then Director of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai was also linked up with Reckless to complete the study. In 1952, Reckless submitted a recommendation report to the Government of India titled ‘Jail Administration in India’. In 1952, TISS in collaboration with Professor Reckless and Dr. Edward Galaway (UN advisor on social defense) organized a six-month training program for prison officials. This program was funded by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.


Ø  Raghavan and Mishra (2017) in their study pointed that Reckless and Galaway’s emphasis on prison reforms exemplified in Indian Government’s Five Year Plans. This phase not only saw outer institutional growth but inner dynamics of corrections also changed. Sethna (1952) captured the perceptional shift of prison staff which was now focusing more on well-being and reformation of the offender.


Ø  As an action over the recommendations forwarded by Reckless, Lucknow Jail Training School in 1959 formulated Criminology oriented teaching module for prison officials that was later emulated by Central Bureau of Correctional Services, New Delhi (1961), Regional Institute of Correctional Administration in Vellore, Tamil Nadu (1978) (Now Academy of Prisons and Correctional Administration (APCA) and Institute of Correctional Administration, Chandigarh (1989).


Ø  To promote Criminology in CJS, in 1961, a team of senior judges and administrators met the University Grants Commission, Government of India, to persuade for starting Under graduate and Post graduate programmes of Criminology at University level. The Government turned down the idea. Later, Government of India also withdrew its support for prison reforms in the sixth five-year plan (1980-85) and then came a downfall in the growth of prison reforms in India. The disinvestment phase in corrections dampened the spirits of Criminology discipline in India and consequently led to job crunch for Criminologists in the system.


Ø  Verma (2005) assessed the educational courses imparted in Criminal Justice Systems in India. Verma in his study majorly criticized the subordination of criminology under other scientific disciplines. The criticism made by Verma was done within the boundaries of academic growth of criminology in India. To understand the holistic picture, the growth of criminology needs to be viewed beyond academic institutions as well. After the phase of criminology subject gaining its independence as a stand-alone department in Universities of India, the growth of Criminology in Criminal Justice System and in Civil Society in India need to be analysed and recorded as well.


Ø  The only exposure of Theoretical Criminology to government officials was made available in National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science (NICFS) (set up in 1972, now Lok Nayak Jayaprakash Narayan National Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science) and that too was reserved for middle and senior level officials from Judiciary, Corrections, Police, Prosecution and Forensic services in India. Every year, around 500 officials, selected from their respective home departments receive training in Criminology in NICFS. Unfortunately, even after a decade of Verma’s Study, the situation is still the same. The education of Criminology imparted in various Universities and Colleges of India is not absorbed properly in the Indian Criminal Justice System[2].


4.2. School of thoughts in Criminology –

§  The goal of criminology is to find out the root cause of the behaviour of a criminal & developing effective ways (or) methods to stop crime by humane manner.


§  There are several schools of thoughts of criminology discipline. Each school of thought of criminology has various factors which involved unnatural behaviour. The conclusion of every school of thought is also different and their approach in dealing with the crime & criminal is also different.


There are three main schools of thought under the criminology discipline, they are –

(i) Classical school

(ii) Positivist school

(iii) Chicago school


(i) Classical school –

ü  It is the 1st school of thought given by Italian attorney Cesare Beccaria. It is based on the ideas such as;

ü  Every individual has his/her own will to make decisions and can act according to their own will.

ü  Most of the people take pleasure & avoid pain. They logically choose the cost versus benefits when they commit any act.

ü  To prevent the crime, one may punish the culprit and punishment should be as severe as the crime itself. 


(ii) Positivist school –

ü  It is the 2nd school of thought of criminology.

ü  It supresses internal & external factors that can be beyond the control of a person. It includes biological, psychological & social causes.

ü  It includes the environment in which the crime is relevant.


(iii) Chicago school –

ü  Other name of this school is Ecological school. It came into existence around 1920s in the department of sociology, University of Chicago.

ü  According to this school, human behaviour can be determined by the social structure. It also studies how psychological & environmental factors have an impact on human behaviour & how these factors deviate the behaviour.


4.3. Study areas of Criminology –


·       Frequency of crimes

·       Location of crimes

·       Causes of crimes

·       Types of crimes

·       Social & individual consequences of crimes

·       Social reactions to crime

·       Individual reactions to crime

·       Governmental reactions to crime


4.4. Major Concepts & theories of Criminology –

The theories can be grouped into ‘3 categories’,

a) Biological theories

b) Psychological theories

c) Sociological theories


a) Biological theories –


(i) Atavism theory :

o   It developed in the 19th century, in the early days of criminology as a rejection of the classical theory.

o   Ceasare Lombroso believed criminal behaviour could be predicted by a person’s psychological characteristics.

Ex: facial structure, biological features could indicate the likelihood of anti-social actions.

o   As these traits were often inherited, Lombroso concluded that these people were ‘born criminal’.

o   This theory seemed subjective & prone to justification of discrimination so it fell out of favour with later researchers.


(ii) Chromosome theory :

o   Researchers continued to look for a biological cause of criminal behaviour in the area of genetics after World War II.

o   They found that some males have an extra ‘Y Chromosome’ which leads to increased levels of testosterone.

o   These higher hormonal levels lead to aggression, violence resulting in illegal activity.

o   Elaborate scientific evaluation has not been able to verify this hypothesis.


(iii) Neurochemical theory :

o   The levels of neurotransmitters in the brain may predispose a person to a criminal activity.

o   Scientists have examined three main brain chemicals – serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine.

o   Where the low levels of serotonin, dopamine are associated with lawlessness.

o   But the research has not established that these are the direct causes of such actions.


b) Psychological theories –


(i) Psychodynamic theory :

o   It is based on the work of Sigmund Freud.

o   He believed that the personality of an individual was made up of three components – id, ego & super ego.

o   If a person experiences conflict between these three elements then it causes an imbalance psychologically.

o   So a person may adopt a coping mechanism that causes him to act out criminally.

o   But the critics point out that it is difficult to test this theory objectively, scientifically.


(ii) Behavioural theory :

o   Edwin Sutherland, an American Sociologist was an early proponent of this approach.

o   This theory believes that criminal behaviour is caused by learning such a lifestyle from one’s environment & criminal role models.


(iii) Cognitive theory :

o   It is based on the work of Jean Piaget, a French Psychologist. He taught that normal human beings must progress through 3 levels of moral development to be able to live & act morally.

o   Albert Ellis & Aaron Beck are the leaders of this approach which believes that criminals behave wrongly because they have not developed their moral judgement ability.


c) Sociological theories –


(i) Strain theory :

o   Proponents of this theory believe that people act criminally as a result of reacting to strain (or) stress. This reaction serves to release this stress.

o   Robert K. Merton, a sociologist at Columbia University first proposed this theory in 1938.

o   This theory explains some types of lawless activities.

o   Whereas critics point out that it falls short of explaining white collar crime.


(ii) Social learning theory :

o   Robert Akers, an American Criminologist developed this theory based on the works of psychologist B.F. Skinner.

o   It says that criminal behaviour is learned & encouraged through social relationships & settings, through family and friends.


(iii) Control theory :

o   This theory does not seek to explain why people engage in criminal activity, rather it assumes that lawless behaviour is often more attractive than restraint.

o   It seeks to understand why people choose to refrain from illegal behaviour.

o   People’s behaviour is because of the control placed on their behaviour that come from a variety of sources like friends, family etc.,


(iv) Rational choice theory :

o   It is based on the utilitarian views of the classical theory.

o   Proponents of this theory believe that criminal is a rational creature who makes choices based on benefits & costs.

o   If the pleasure gained by illegal activity outweighs the consequences of it, then the criminal makes a rational choice to act criminally.

o   It is a popular modern theory which explains that criminal activity is a process of cost-benefit analysis.


4.5. Methods of Criminology :

Criminologists have developed several methods in order to understand the causes of lawlessness & how to prevent it.


(i) Descriptive statistics –

ü  It is a method of gathering statistical information about criminal activity from a specific population sample in order to make conclusions about specific actions.

ü  Adolphe Quetelet, a Belgian Mathematician was the 1st person to publish a statistical report of criminal activity on a national level. He produced a study of criminal rate in the early 1800s.

ü  The use of descriptive statistics to study illegal activity has grown over the years.


(ii) Case studies –

ü  It focuses on an individual criminal, seeking to understand the causes of person’s illegal actions.

ü  This provides insights about criminal mind, their subjective limits etc.,


(iii) Typologies –

ü  This approach attempts to classify criminals into different categories like career criminals (or) white collar criminals.

ü  As studying similar types of criminals will reveal patterns helpful in prevention.

ü  It is considered to be very simplistic & very reliable.


(iv) Experimental methods –

ü  It attempts to discover solutions to criminal activities by testing different prevention approaches in real-life settings.

ü  This method has been increasingly used in the last forty years with some positive results.


(v) Prediction studies –

ü  It seeks to predict the likelihood of an individual committing a certain type of misdeed in the future. The main tools used here are statistics & case histories.

ü  It is not effective for every type of illegal activity, has proven valid in some areas like criminal drug behaviour.


(vi) Action Research –

ü  It aims at discovering the practical solutions to lawless behaviour through the insights given by law enforcement officials since they have the most current & relevant experience with the offenders.

ü  It seeks to employ wisdom to build positive prevention policies.


(vii) Cross-Disciplinary & Cross-cultural Approaches –

ü  It seeks to understand the lawless behaviour by comparing criminal activity from different cultures.

ü  Proponents of this approach believe that comparison will highlight differences between the cultures.

          “The deviant and the conformist…are creatures of the same culture, inventions of the same imagination” 

                                         -Sociologist Kai Erickson

ü  The influence of criminology is a vital field of study to help society understand what causes an individual to deviate from the law and behave criminally[3].


5. Issues that hamper the growth of Indian Criminology :


§  Chandra and Jaishankar (2017) chronologies the growth of Criminology in India. They mention about two crucial documents that promoted the growth of Criminology in India, at the International level – the Canadian Report (1956) and UNESCO Report (1957).


§  These back-to-back recommending documents from international forum strongly suggested for developing Criminology as a subject discipline in India. It was the UNESCO report (1957) that recommended on the need to develop scientific Criminology. Due to the emphasis on developing scientific Criminology by the UNESCO report, the forerunners of Criminology institutions in India started joint departments of Criminology and Forensic Sciences. This led to the lack of emphasis on theoretical and applied Criminology in India, in its initial phase of growth as a separate entity.


(a) Other Disciplines Supremacy and/or Exclusion –

In India, criminology is besieged by Law, Forensic Science and Social Work. The history of criminology in India, is comparatively different to the United States where criminology departments are kept independent of Forensic Sciences/Law or any other related discipline(s). This stand-alone and independent status of Criminology/Criminal Justice Departments could be attributed to the discipline’s exponential growth in the United States in terms of reinforcing positive impact on the society through quality criminological and criminal justice research.


(b) Lack of Governmental Support –

The callousness of the system is a major de-motivating factor for budding researchers and eventually slowing down the pace of the growth of Indian Criminology. The system needs to be more transparent in order to assist in the growth of Criminology.

To bring a significant change towards the growth of Criminology, the Government of India needs to give space to Criminology in schemes of good governance. Morn (1995) also emphasized the importance of support from the Central Government for the development of Criminology in the Nation.


(c) Lack of Distinct Identity –

Indian Criminology is contributing to the current global pace of understanding criminals and preventing crimes through teaching methods and through National and International publications but in the pages of history, the Indian Criminology has not been able to create a distinct identity as created by American, British (or) European Criminology (ABE Criminology).


(d) Pioneering Models of Embedded Criminologists –

In India, the growth of Criminology is noticeable in the academic field only. Beyond academic institutions, criminology discipline was not given its deserving space and opportunity to develop. However, there are few instances to notice where the post of Criminologist was created in the State police services.


Example : Kerala Government has a post for a Criminologist in police training academy in Thirussur. The post of Criminologist was made equivalent to the rank of a Deputy

Superintendent of Police.


In Gujarat, three ‘Trained Criminologists’ were appointed in January 2017 in Raksha Shakti University, Ahmedabad under a MoU signed between the University and the Commissioner of Ahmedabad Police. These three Criminologists worked in collaboration with the Ahmedabad Police to help police perform evidence based policing (Chandra, 2018). In January 2017, three Criminologists were appointed on 12 months contract at the University. These 3 Criminologists were placed under the guidance and Supervision of a Police Officer and an academic criminologist.


The findings of patterns of crimes against persons were presented before the Commissioner of Ahmedabad City Police on 14th July 2017, to adopt and promote result oriented and evidence-based policing. It is with a vision to ensure safer communities and mission to utilize Criminological expertise in assistance of effective crime preventive policing in Ahmedabad City. This shall open up opportunities for many young Criminologists in India who will become part of the CJS machinery. This model will open the channels for exchange of criminological knowledge for synergizing the efforts of academicians and Police for safer communities.


6. Influence of Criminology on Policing & Criminal law :

o   There has been a great influence of criminology on the legal system for more than last 200 years. Thus, policing & criminology are important protections in the modern world. Criminology is the study of crime from a scientific approach aimed at discovering the causes of it & methods to prevent it. It involves research from different fields such as sociology, biology, psychology, justice. Criminologists examine the illegal activity both on an individual level & at societal level.


o   Today’s Criminal Justice System (CJS) creates policies & operates based on the theories & concepts established by criminology. The Criminal Justice system depends on criminology to examine the sociology of law, the social response to crime and establish theories of crime causation[4]


o   The CJS depends on criminology to understand and explain why certain unlawful behaviour is being committed. It also identifies fluctuation in crime rates and the changing characteristics of groups that do (or) do not violate specific criminal laws. Criminology aids the CJS to adequately respond to trends in unlawful behaviour by understanding the factors that contribute to these behaviours.


o   Law enforcement can craft effective crime suppression tactics and better understand the characteristics of criminals based on the social factors explained by criminology. With the theories & concepts of criminology our court systems are able to write more effective laws & sentencing guidelines to deter society from unlawful behaviour for fear of punishment. Our correctional department also depends on the studies & theories of criminology to understand if current rehabilitation efforts are in line with today’s society.


o   Without criminology punishments would not fit the crimes and the root cause & influences behind why society behaves unlawfully would never be fully understood. It is also applied to how we write laws, civil statutes etc., It helps to deal with the criminal element of the society[5]


7. Importance of criminology in the legal system :

·       Criminology has made improvements in the field of delivery of justice. It helps to understand crime, its cause, effect on the society as a whole.


·       It has led to the establishment of more specialized areas like environmental criminology which has brought advancements in police tactics, community-oriented policing etc.,


·       It attempts to explain why certain events are considered as crime in certain societies & not in the others by establishing a jurisprudence for the betterment of law.


·       As criminology includes the study of several different theories, it helps the legislators & judiciary to understand a crime more exhaustively there by laying much more effective laws.


·       It gives us the logical way of crime prevention which is to provide harsher punishments for crimes based on its gravity. So that criminals will know the possible consequences of their acts which in turn would reduce the crime rate.


·       In these ways, modern criminology helps us to understand the root causes of crime and gives us the best way to address it, prevent it.

8. Future of criminology :

Ø  Our CJS has adopted the latest technologies to be a step ahead of the criminals. Technology & law go hand in hand to keep up with the moving times. Modern technologies such as in the field of forensic sciences give great strength to the field of criminology which helps to deter crime to a great extent.


Ø  The field of criminology got evolved where Ballistic fingerprinting in forensic studies which aims to link the scratches in bullet casings with the guns that fired them. It helps in solving crimes wherein the offender is unknown & evidence is extremely limited.


Ø  DNA Indexing system is one of the framework which is majorly utilized in India & have the greatest prospects of evolution in the future.


Ø  In future, criminology could be evolved greatly by utilizing technological innovations in facial recognition, iris scan, biometric IDs[6].


9. Conclusion :

Criminology is an interdisciplinary study of crime and the responses to crime have generated a wealth of knowledge surrounding the commission of crime, its predictors, social situations that elicit it and many other topics. It’s inherently interdisciplinary focus makes criminology a prime study for integrating an evolutionary frame-work governing human behaviour into the realm of its focus. Equipped with the wisdom of time in producing and reproducing thoughts, emotions and behaviours related to crime, evolutionary perspectives provide a complementary approach to expanding the scope of explanation afforded to criminologists.


Even the Malimath Committee Report in it’s recommendations also emphasizes the need for criminologists. Due to its development & advancement in the field of science & technology there is a dire need of criminologists & their techniques in the field of criminal law. Thus as an interdisciplinary field it has to be developed as a separate branch of study for speedy recovering of crime which reduces stress on policing. 

[1] Durrant and Ward 2015; White et al. 2018

[2] Amit Thakre & K. Jaishankar, Whither Indian Criminology, Raksha Shakti University, India

[4] Maxim, 1998, p.20

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