Sunday, 23 January 2022

Reformative Theory of Punishment

 Reformative Theory of Punishment

By Shreya Verma

Reformative or restorative theory of punishment seeks to bring a change in the attitude of the offender so as to rehabilitate him as a law-abiding member of the society.

This is the newest form of looking into the offenders. Earlier, it was believed that in order to stop crime a person must be punished either to set an example for the society or to prevent the person from further committing the crime. But with time the approach how criminal scientist look into the crimes and the criminals changed. Now, the approach was adopted which believe in reformation and rehabilitation of the deviants in order to prevent crime in the society as a consequence the affirmative sentence like open presence, centres for Juvenile delinquents and to the offender of drug abuse etc. were formed. Normative theory has more human approach to look into the crimes and criminals and is definitely is said to have been more effective as it treats criminality as a disease which can be cured with proper treatment.

Reformative Theory of punishment in Indian context: - 

In India too we have the reformative theory of punishment. The provisions of admonition under section 360 of the Criminal Procedure Code and section 3 of probation of offenders Act, 1958 provides for pardoning the first-time offenders after giving them a warning not to repeat the same offence. Pardoning the first-time offenders give them a chance to re-consider their mistake and it has been observed that most of the criminals released after admonition do not re-commit the offence. On the other hand, the rate of re-commission of offence by the once who completed their punishment is quite high. Reason being, in cells there is no discrimination between the first-time offenders and the recidivists. So, the continuous exposure of those who can be reformed with the criminal-minded person makes them vulnerable to offences and they may after their acquittal may also become criminals.

There are other provisions like releasing a person on probation for good behaviour, rehabilitation of juvenile delinquents, provision of Parole and furlough are some of the examples which shows that how reformative form of punishments are being adopted in Indian criminal justice system. 

Also, now the concept of open prisons has evolved, whereby, the convicts get out of prison bars to earn livelihood and return after sunset. 

These are some of the provisions that have been incorporated in the Indian penal system to give a chance of rehabilitation and reinstatement of the convicts in society after they are released.


It was noted by Justice, V.R. Krishna Iyer in the case of Mohd. Giasuddin v. State of Andhra Pradesh (1977) SC that “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future”. This quote aptly defines the rationale behind the theory of reformative theory. i.e., a there may be some particular circumstances that lead the accused to indulge in criminal activity, and thus by making an effort to understand as to why person committed an offence and how he can be saved from recommitting it. This is the reason to make the penal system more reformative than merely preventive or deterrent.


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