Trending: Call for Papers Volume 4 | Issue 4: International Journal of Advanced Legal Research [ISSN: 2582-7340]



In the democratic framework of the Union of India, each state operates with its own set of powers and functions under the overarching guidance of the Constitution. The Constitution of India, conceived as a break from the colonial past, embodies aspirations for a democratic republic, striving to replace oppressive structures with liberal democratic ideals. Within this constitutional framework, the criminal justice administration emerges as a pivotal component, embodying the state’s commitment to upholding the rule of law. The criminal justice administration, comprising the police, courts, and prisons, operates within the federal structure of India. While the states retain control over police and prison administration, they adhere to federal laws, ensuring a harmonious operation across regions. This interplay between state autonomy and federal oversight reflects the balance sought by the Constitution, aiming to foster unity while respecting diversity. Central to the Constitution’s vision is the establishment of a criminal justice administration that aligns with the ideals of a liberal democracy. The Constitution Assembly Debates underscored the complexity of this task, as legislators grappled with the grand ambitions of the document. At the heart of this endeavour was the need to reconcile the coercive power of criminal law with the principles of individual rights and public order. The actions of the police, judiciary, and correctional institutions are interconnected within this administration. Police officers on the streets impact court workload, while judicial decisions reverberate through the operation of jails and prisons. This holistic view of criminal justice underscores its interdependence, with each component striving towards a unified goal of upholding justice and preserving societal order.

The Constitution of India serves as a guiding light for the evolution of the criminal justice administration, navigating the complexities of governance within a diverse and democratic nation. Through its principles of justice, equality, and liberty, the Constitution aspires to create a society where the rule of law prevails, ensuring that the criminal justice administration remains a cornerstone of democratic governance.

This paper examines the intricate relationship between the Constitution of India and the administration of criminal justice, offering insights from a judicial perspective. Grounded in the principles of democracy and the rule of law, the Constitution of India establishes the framework within which the criminal justice administration operates. Through an analysis of judicial decisions, constitutional provisions, and legal debates, this study elucidates the constitutional principles that underpin the criminal justice administration.


The Constitution of India, often regarded as the cornerstone of the nation’s democratic fabric, delineates the fundamental rights and liberties guaranteed to its citizens. In the context of a democratic society, the criminal justice administration assumes a pivotal role in safeguarding these rights by enforcing laws and meting out justice to offenders.

The symbiotic relationship between the Constitution and the criminal justice system[1] is profound, with each reinforcing and complementing the other in the pursuit of a just and equitable society. The Constituent Assembly, a diverse body comprising elected representatives from Provincial Legislative Assemblies and delegates from Indian Princely States, undertook the arduous task of drafting the Constitution.

The deliberations within the Assembly, characterized by rigorous debate and profound reflection, resulted in the formulation of provisions aimed at ensuring the protection of fundamental rights. Part III of the Constitution, which delineates Fundamental Rights, extends its ambit to various organs of the State, including the government, parliament, and local authorities. This expansive interpretation underscores the obligation of all state entities, including those involved in the administration of criminal justice, to uphold and safeguard these rights[2].

Article 13 of the Constitution serves as a bulwark against the encroachment of Fundamental Rights by any legislative or executive action. It stipulates that any law, ordinance, order, bye-law, rule, regulation, or notification that contravenes or abridges these rights shall be deemed void.

However, the Constitution also recognizes the necessity of imposing reasonable restrictions on the exercise of certain rights in the interest of public order, morality, or national security, as enshrined in Article 19. This delicate balance between individual liberties and societal welfare lies at the heart of democratic governance and underscores the nuanced approach adopted by the framers of the Constitution. The enactment of the Constitution in 1950 heralded a transformative phase in the evolution of the Rule of Law in India. It not only conferred legitimacy upon pre-independence British laws, such as the Indian Penal Code, Indian Evidence Act, and Criminal Procedure Code but also served as the touchstone for all future criminal justice legislation.

Despite the profound impact of the Constitution on the criminal justice system, the intricate interplay between constitutional guarantees and criminal justice norms often remains underexplored and underappreciated. Scholars and legal luminaries have highlighted the disconnect between academic discourse on constitutional law and criminal justice. A.G. Noorani, in his seminal work, “Handbook of Human Rights and Criminal Justice in India,” bemoans the lack of attention given to the profound importance of constitutional guarantees in shaping the criminal justice apparatus. This oversight is further exacerbated by the absence of acknowledgment of constitutional norms as the foundational principles of criminal justice in textbooks and scholarly works.

The widening gap between normative promises and existential realities at the implementation level underscores the urgent need for a revaluation of the relationship between constitutional guarantees and criminal justice norms. Efforts to bridge this gap must begin with a recognition of the constitutional foundations of the criminal justice system. By acknowledging the inseparable link between constitutional principles and criminal justice policies, policymakers, legal practitioners, and scholars can work collaboratively to align juridical reality with existential reality.

Therefore, the Constitution of India stands as a beacon of democracy, enshrining the fundamental rights and liberties of its citizens. The criminal justice administration, guided by constitutional principles, plays a pivotal role in safeguarding these rights and upholding the rule of law. By recognizing the profound importance of constitutional guarantees in shaping the criminal justice apparatus, stakeholders can pave the way for a more just, equitable, and democratic society in India.

Criminal Justice Administration

The Criminal Justice System in India serves as the backbone of societal order, comprising various governmental mechanisms aimed at ensuring law and order, preventing crimes, adjudicating criminal cases, compensating and rehabilitating victims, and deterring future offenders. It is a crucial instrument for social control, distinct from other forms of control such as familial or educational institutions, as it focuses on enforcing legal norms and punishing wrongdoers to prevent further criminal activities. Through its multifaceted approach, the Criminal Justice System seeks to protect the rights and liberties of individuals and uphold the principles of justice and rule of law in the country. The system involves a multitude of legislative measures designed to regulate and govern various aspects of criminal behaviour and judicial proceedings.

Examples include the Indian Penal Code of 1860, which delineates various criminal offenses and their corresponding punishments, and the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1974, which lays down procedural rules for the investigation and trial of criminal cases. Additionally, legislation such as the Protection of Civil Rights Act of 1955 aims to safeguard the civil liberties of citizens and protect marginalized communities from discrimination and atrocities.

The historical evolution of India’s Criminal Justice System can be traced back to ancient times when governance was guided by principles of ‘Dharma.’ Kings administered justice based on moral and ethical principles, distinguishing between criminal offenses and civil wrongs. Scriptures like the ‘Smritis,’ ‘Puranas,’ ‘Ramayana,’ and ‘Mahabharata’ provided codes of conduct, guiding individuals towards righteous behavior.

The concept of ‘Pataka’ or sin was considered a criminal offense, while civil wrongs involved disputes over wealth and property. During the Mauryan era, an intricate system of criminal justice emerged, featuring mutilations and death penalties for severe offenses. The Gupta administration’s judicial system included folk assemblies, guilds, and the king, all operating within the framework of ‘Dharma Shastras.’ However, the medieval period saw disruptions due to invasions until stabilization under Mughal rule.

The modern Criminal Justice System in India was heavily influenced by British colonial administration. The enactment of the Indian Penal Code in 1860 and the Code of Criminal Procedure in 1861 standardized rules and procedures for the administration of justice. Despite these developments, issues such as the criminalization of politics highlighted by the 1993 N.N. Vohra Committee and the systemic bias favouring accused individuals over victims criticized in the 2003 committee report underscored the need for reforms.

In response to these challenges, various committees and commissions have proposed reforms to enhance the effectiveness and fairness of the Criminal Justice System. The 2000 Justice V.S. Malimath Committee, for instance, focused on ensuring justice for victims, while the 2003 committee report contained 158 recommendations aimed at addressing systemic flaws and improving the overall functioning of the system.

The Criminal Justice System in India has undergone a complex and evolving journey, shaped by ancient traditions, colonial legacies, and contemporary challenges. While it serves as a vital instrument for maintaining law and order and upholding the rule of law, continued efforts are needed to address systemic issues and ensure justice for all stakeholders involved.

The Criminal Justice System in India serves as a multifaceted framework comprising various agencies and processes aimed at maintaining law and order, adjudicating crime, and correcting the behaviour of offenders. Functioning as a device for social control, it plays a crucial role in preventing and addressing harmful behaviours within society. At its core, the Criminal Justice System is guided by several key objectives aimed at ensuring justice, protecting victims’ rights, and deterring future criminal activity.

One of the primary objectives of the Criminal Justice System is the prevention of crime. Through proactive measures such as law enforcement efforts, community policing initiatives, and public awareness campaigns, the system seeks to deter individuals from engaging in criminal behaviour. By addressing underlying social and economic factors contributing to crime, the system aims to create safer communities and reduce the incidence of criminal activity.

Another fundamental objective of the Criminal Justice System is the punishment of transgressors. By holding individuals who violate the law accountable for their actions through fair and impartial legal proceedings, the system upholds the rule of law and promotes a sense of justice within society.

Punishment serves as a deterrent to future criminal activity and sends a clear message that criminal behaviour will not be tolerated.In addition to punishment, the Criminal Justice System strives to rehabilitate offenders and reintegrate them into society as law-abiding citizens. Through rehabilitative programs such as education, vocational training, and counselling, individuals are provided with the necessary support to address underlying issues contributing to their criminal behaviour.

By addressing the root causes of crime and promoting personal growth and development, the system aims to reduce recidivism and enhance public safety.

The Criminal Justice System also recognizes the rights of victims and seeks to provide them with compensation for the losses they have suffered as a result of crime. This includes financial restitution, access to support services, and measures to ensure their safety and well-being. By placing a strong emphasis on victim rights and support, the system aims to restore dignity and provide closure for those affected by crime.

Ensuring that society operates according to the principles of law and order is another fundamental objective of the Criminal Justice System. By enforcing legal norms, resolving disputes, and addressing grievances, the system helps to maintain stability and security within the community. Through the swift and effective administration of justice, the system serves as a deterrent for individuals contemplating engaging in criminal activity, sending a clear message that offenders will face consequences for their actions.

The components of the Criminal Justice System in India work together in a coordinated manner to achieve these objectives. Law enforcement agencies are responsible for receiving and documenting reports of crime, conducting investigations, and maintaining public order within their jurisdictions. Prosecutors represent the state in criminal proceedings, ensuring that offenders are held accountable for their actions and that legal proceedings are conducted fairly and impartially. The judiciary, consisting of judges and courts, adjudicates criminal cases and makes final decisions or rulings at each stage of the legal process. Corrections agencies are tasked with managing and supervising offenders who have been convicted of crimes, providing rehabilitation programs, and facilitating their reintegration into society upon their release.

Through the coordinated efforts of these components, the Criminal Justice System in India strives to uphold the rule of law, protect the rights of individuals, and promote a safe and just society for all.

Criminal Justice Administration & Constitutional Provision

The fundamental document of India is the Constitution, which grants state authorities extensive authority to maintain social harmony and order while also acknowledging and defending certain rights and liberties for both citizens and non-citizens, even those who have been accused. The proper operation of a just and democratic society depends on this delicate balance between the power of the state and individual liberties. The Fundamental Rights protected by Part III of the Constitution, which serve as a check on any governmental abuses of power, are essential to maintaining this balance[3].

The Indian Constitution’s Article 372 allows the state and its agents to criminalize certain behaviours and subject suspects to the legally established processes for determining guilt and assigning punishments. This includes modifying existing substantive and procedural criminal laws as well as other civil liability laws.

The Fundamental Rights protected in Part III of the Constitution, in particular the balancing principles outlined in Article 13(1)[4] and (2)[5], serve as a counterbalance to these expansive powers. According to Article 13(1), all laws that are now in effect and that are implemented must pass a test to determine if they conflict with fundamental rights. If they do, the legislation is void to the degree of the conflict.

In a same vein, Article 13(2) nullifies any legislation passed by the state that attempts to curtail or abolish any basic right. As a result, the extensive list of Fundamental Rights outlined in Part III of the Constitution acts as a safeguard for personal liberties, guaranteeing that the use of governmental authority stays within the bounds of established constitutional precepts.

In order to guarantee the equitable and just application of the law, the Indian Constitution not only strikes a balance between individual rights and governmental authority, but it also establishes certain rules pertaining to the criminal justice system. For example, Article 21[6] establishes the Right to Life and Personal Liberty, emphasizing that no one may be deprived of these rights unless doing so is permitted by law. This basic right guarantees fair process in criminal trials and serves as a buffer against arbitrary state action.

Article 20[7] offers Protection in respect of the Conviction of Offences, recognizing three basic principles of criminal liability: protection against the application of ex post facto law, prohibition against double jeopardy, and protection against self-incrimination. These principles are essential for safeguarding the rights of the accused and ensuring a fair trial. Article 22 imposes limitations on the powers of the state to arrest a person, emphasizing the importance of procedural safeguards such as communication of grounds of arrest, the right to consult and be defended by legal counsel, and the requirement to produce the arrestee before a magistrate within 24 hours of arrest. These safeguards are crucial for preventing arbitrary detention and safeguarding individual liberties.

Article 14 lays down the principle of “Equality before the Law,” ensuring the non-discriminatory application of the process of criminalization on all citizens. This principle underscores the importance of equal treatment under the law, regardless of one’s status or background. Article 39A emphasizes the directive of Equal Justice and Free Legal Aid, ensuring that all individuals have access to justice and legal representation, regardless of their socio-economic status.

The enactment of the National Legal Services Authorities Act of 1987 was a significant step towards fulfilling this constitutional mandate. Additionally, the Constitution provides for the enforcement of Fundamental Rights by constitutional courts through provisions of judicial remedies under Articles 32 and 226. These provisions empower individuals to seek redressal for violations of their fundamental rights, ensuring that constitutional guarantees are upheld.

Moreover, matters related to criminal law and criminal procedure, including the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), are included in the concurrent part of the 7th Schedule of the Constitution, along with exceptions. This concurrent jurisdiction allows for the harmonious operation of criminal justice administration at both the central and state levels, ensuring effective enforcement of laws and protection of rights.

The constitutional provisions related to the Criminal Justice System in India reflect a delicate balance between state authority and individual rights. Through a comprehensive framework of Fundamental Rights and specific provisions pertaining to criminal justice administration, the Constitution seeks to ensure the fair and just treatment of all individuals, uphold the rule of law, and maintain social order. These constitutional safeguards play a crucial role in safeguarding democracy, promoting equality, and protecting the rights and liberties of all citizens.

Evolution of the Criminal Justice System

The evolution of criminal justice under the Indian Constitution reflects a transition from a diverse array of pre-codification laws, including Charters, East India Regulations, and customary laws, to a modern legal framework embedded with principles of individual rights and the rule of law. Prior to codification, the legal system was perceived by the English as arbitrary and lacking in coherence, prompting the need for modernization and the incorporation of fundamental rights within criminal laws.

With the aim of modernizing the legal system, English jurists emphasized embedding individual rights, freedoms, and the principle of the rule of law into criminal laws during the codification process. However, many codified statutes initially lacked provisions specifically upholding rights, liberty, and freedoms of citizens, leading to subsequent judicial interpretations to elucidate the intent of the makers and uphold fundamental principles[8].

Following India’s independence and the adoption of a written Constitution, existing criminal laws began to be formulated and tailored to align with modern concepts and principles. The Constitution of India demonstrated a deep commitment to securing criminal justice rooted in global visions of human rights and dignity. The inclusion of “Justice” in the preamble underscored its significance as a noble objective, with various provisions aimed at safeguarding immutable principles like the presumption of innocence.

The Constitution delicately addressed these issues to ensure adequate protection for accused individuals while considering societal interests and avoiding barriers to crime alleviation or detection. Despite challenges, the makers adeptly balanced these concerns, acknowledging the unique circumstances inherited by India as it transitioned to a modern constitutional democracy from colonial-era laws.[9]

The responsibility of achieving this delicate balance fell upon the judiciary, which initially adopted a literal approach to constitutional interpretation, focusing on the plain text of the law. However, seminal cases like Kharak Singh v. State of Uttar Pradesh[10] prompted deeper considerations of expressions like “life” and “personal liberty” within the Constitution.Subsequent interpretations, such as those in R.C. Cooper v. Union of India[11] and Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India[12], expanded constitutional concepts like liberty and due process, laying the groundwork for their application in the realm of criminal justice. The judiciary’s deliberations encompassed notions of reasonableness, dignity, and the protection of unoccupied portions of personal liberty.

Cases like Francis Coralie Mullin v. The Administrator, Union Territory of Delhi[13], and Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corporation[14] further broadened the scope of constitutional rights, recognizing implicit necessities of life and livelihood. The judiciary’s evolving interpretations contributed to a more nuanced understanding of fundamental rights and their implications for criminal justice administration under the Indian Constitution.

The judiciary’s role in shaping the criminal justice system in India extends beyond mere interpretation of laws; it also involves addressing systemic issues and safeguarding the rights of victims and accused individuals alike. Through landmark cases like Satya Prakash vs. State[15], the courts have highlighted the often overlooked plight of victims within the criminal justice delivery system. While much attention is rightfully given to the rights of offenders, the enforcement of laws relating to victim compensation is equally crucial. Monetary compensation, though unable to fully heal the emotional wounds caused by criminal acts, provides some solace to the families of victims, acknowledging their suffering and loss.

Similarly, in cases such as T.V. Vatheeswaram vs. State of Tamil Nadu[16] and Joginder Kumar vs. State of Uttar Pradesh[17], the Supreme Court intervened to protect fundamental rights, ensuring fair treatment of accused individuals. The court’s rulings emphasized the importance of timely justice and the right to be informed of one’s arrest, highlighting instances of police misconduct and illegal detention. These cases underscored the judiciary’s commitment to upholding procedural safeguards and preventing abuse of power by law enforcement agencies.

Furthermore, in Babu Singh vs. State of Uttar Pradesh[18], the Supreme Court addressed the issue of pre-trial incarceration and the arbitrary nature of bail rules, particularly for indigent accused individuals. The court recognized the right to bail as a facet of personal liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution, emphasizing that its refusal should be authorized only in accordance with established legal procedures. This ruling aimed to prevent the prolonged detention of underprivileged individuals awaiting trial, ensuring that the principle of justice is applied equitably to all.

In case of D.K. Basu vs. State of West Bengal[19] and Hussainara Khatoon vs. State of Bihar[20]. These cases represent a departure from traditional common law approaches and a shift towards a more purposive interpretation of constitutional rights. In D.K. Basu, the Supreme Court accepted a letter as a petition, signalling a broader interpretation of locus standi and paving the way for Public Interest Litigation (PIL).

Similarly, Hussainara Khatoon expanded the rights of undertrial prisoners, emphasizing the rights to a speedy trial and free legal aid. These landmark decisions heralded a transition from a strict rule of law framework to a more justice-oriented approach within the Indian criminal justice system.

The judicial philosophy reflected in cases like Kesavananda Bharathi vs. Union of India[21] further underscores this shift towards purposive interpretation. Here, the Supreme Court’s judgment sought to reconcile the original purpose of the Constitution with contemporary societal needs, emphasizing a holistic understanding of constitutional principles. This approach, akin to the ideas of Justice Aharon Barak, reflects a nuanced balance between subjective intent and objective objectives, shaping the trajectory of constitutional change in India.However, while these judicial interventions have undoubtedly influenced the evolution of the criminal justice system, their precise impact on specific issues requires closer examination. By analyzing select cases, we can better appreciate the interpretive process and its implications for key aspects of criminal justice in India.

Moving forward, it is essential for the judiciary to continue its role as a guardian of constitutional values, ensuring that legal principles adapt to meet the evolving needs of society. Through purposive interpretation and proactive judicial activism, the courts can address systemic injustices, protect fundamental rights, and uphold the principles of fairness and equity within the criminal justice system. By doing so, they contribute to the realization of a more just and equitable society for all citizens.


It’s evident that the Indian Constitution, as framed by the visionary leaders, holds justice, equality, liberty, and dignity as its cornerstone principles. The framers meticulously balanced the rights of individuals with the imperatives of state security and integrity. This balance is reflected in the constitutional provisions concerning criminal justice, where the state is empowered to impose reasonable restrictions on certain fundamental rights to maintain order and morality while ensuring fair administration of justice[22].

However, the effectiveness of these provisions lies not just in their existence but in their meticulous implementation, guided by the spirit of justice rather than mere adherence to the letter of the law. Over time, the judiciary has played a pivotal role in interpreting these provisions, infusing humanism into the criminal justice system.

Cases such as those revolving around Article 21 have been instrumental in expanding the scope of individual rights and freedoms, not only for victims but also for the accused.Yet, the path to achieving a truly liberal and freedom-oriented criminal justice system has been marked by inconsistencies. While the Indian judiciary has drawn inspiration from decisions of the US Supreme Court and embraced constitutional interpretation, there has been no uniformity in the approach followed.

The influence of common law principles, inherent in both the English and American legal systems, has also left its mark, shaping the trajectory of judicial decisions. The recommendations put forth by the Justice V.S. Malimath committee hold significant importance. Recognizing the need for comprehensive reform, the committee has suggested measures aimed at revamping India’s criminal justice system across its various facets, including the police, judiciary, and prisons.

These recommendations, if implemented diligently, have the potential to bring about much-needed improvement and efficiency to the system. It becomes imperative for stakeholders, including policymakers, legal professionals, and civil society, to work collaboratively towards the realization of a more just and equitable criminal justice system. This entails not only enacting legislative reforms but also fostering a culture of accountability and transparency within law enforcement and judicial institutions.

Moreover, efforts must be directed towards addressing systemic issues such as delays in the disposal of cases, overcrowding in prisons, and inadequate access to legal aid. Embracing technological advancements and best practices from around the world can also contribute to enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of the system.

The evolution of India’s criminal justice system is a continuous journey, shaped by the interplay of constitutional principles, judicial decisions, and societal norms. By remaining steadfast in their commitment to justice and upholding the rights and dignity of all individuals, stakeholders can pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable society, where the rule of law prevails and justice is accessible to all.

[1]Criminal Justice Administration

[2] Constitutional Foundations of the Criminal Justice Administration, http://epgp.inflibnet.ac.in/epgpdata/uploads/epgp_content/law/05._criminal_justice_administration/01._constitutional_foundations_of_criminal_justice_system/et/5681_et_01_et.pdf (last visited Apr 18, 2024).


[4] All laws in force in the territory of India immediately before the commencement of this Constitution, in so far as they are inconsistent with the provisions of this Part, shall, to the extent of such inconsistency, be void.

[5] The State shall not make any law which takes away or abridges the rights conferred by this Part and any law made in contravention of this clause shall, to the extent of the contravention, be void.

[6] No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.

[7](1) No person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the Act charged as an offence, nor be subjected to a penalty greater than that which might have been inflicted under the law in force at the time of the commission of the offence.

(2) No person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once.

(3) No person accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.

[8] See generally, Sreenidhi K. R. & Chanjana Elsa Philip, Exploring Constitutional Complexity, 3 CMR UNIV. J. CONTEMP. LEGAL AFF. 151 (2021).

[9] Chanjana Elsa Philip & Sreenidhi K.R, Impact of Constitutional Interpretation on the Indian Criminal Justice System, 5 CMR UNIVERSITY JOURNAL FOR CONTEMPORARY LEGAL AFFAIRS 228–248 (2023).

[10] 1963 AIR 1295

[11] 1970 AIR 564

[12] 1978 AIR 597

[13] AIR 1981 SUPREME COURT 746

[14] AIR 1986 SUPREME COURT 180

[15] CRL.REV.P.No.338/2009, 11 October 2013

[16] AIR 1981 SC 643

[17] AIR 1978 SC 527

[18] 1978 SCC 1 579

[19] AIR 1997 SC 610

[20] AIR 1979 SC 1377

[21] His Holiness Kesavananda Bharati Sripadagalvaru and Ors. v. State of Kerala and Anr. (1973) 4 SCC 225

[22] Criminal justice policy under Indian Constitution, Legal Service India – Law, Lawyers and Legal Resources, https://www.legalserviceindia.com/legal/article-2957-criminal-justice-policy-under-indian-constitution.html (last visited Apr 19, 2024).