Crime Prevention By Shadan Seraj At LEXCLIQ

Crime is characteristic of society. Studies in criminology and penology relate crime to the inherent nature of the human psyche. However, it is imperative to punish those who commit heinous crimes in modern society, for they infringe upon another’s rights and, hence, stray away from their own duties. The prevention of crimes is imperative to the protection of the rights of every individual- the fundamental basis of modern democracy.
It is essential to study the cause and effect of the force one is trying to prevent. While the effects of crime range from a mere injury to the infringement of a legal right to the loss of life, the causes may be varied and multi-layered. A multi-faceted approach to crime is explored herewith, broadly at first and then with specific application to domestic violence as a crime.

Minorities and those perceived as vulnerable in society are most prone to be victims of crime. Therefore, it is essential to examine their possible role in the prevention of crime by assessing whether they are, indeed, victims to specific crimes and if there is enough legislation in place to safeguard their particular rights are the most susceptible victims of crime.

Crime prevention- Laws in India
The Indian Penal Code, 1860, the Criminal Procedure Code, 1974 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 are regarded as the basic outlines that guide the executive and the judiciary to capture, hold, try and sentence criminals in India. These laws are further supplemented by ones like the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) act, 2013, The Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005, The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015 and many more. These statutes have been made to address each individual criminal act and to strengthen the measures taken against them with the aim to curb the occurrence of these crimes upon the establishment that a physical act or actus reus was committed with a guilty mind or mens rea.

A brief overview of this set up prompts the onlooker to address the fact that there is, in fact, an overwhelming number of such statutes that have been legislated in India. Clearly, the lack of the number of legislations and statutes is not an issue in India. The quality of these legislations, their limited scope, ambiguity within them and their incompatibility with the habits and mindsets of all classes of society are, however, major weak links in this respect. For instance, the domestic violence act, today, is being mistreated by minority women to harass their in-laws while true victims find the law and its applications inaccessible due to economic and social constraints. The Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace law speaks only of sexual harassment against women by a man and turns a blind eye to the possibility that a woman may harass a man, or a man may harass another man, or a woman may arise another woman, or a transgender person may be harassed at the workplace.
More importantly, the inefficient and often corrupt workings of a highly underpaid and mistreated executive and bureaucratic apathy act as a barrier instead of a link between these legislations and the judiciary.

It is essential to return to criminology and inspect the causes of crime in order to ascertain the ideal method of preventing it.
The parallels drawn between the 2012 Delhi Gang-Rape Case and the 2019 Hyderabad Vet Rape Case stand in evidence of the same- the perpetrators of both seemingly similar crimes were from poor socio-economic backgrounds and had fought poverty all their lives. The perpetrators of such heinous crimes seem not to fear legal retributions to their acts. This is indicative of the failure of our legal system to deliver criminals to justice- another cause of crimes. Lack of education and employment are pivotal reasons for increasing rates of crime and abuse of alcohol and drugs as well.

These circumstances exist outside the realm of the adequate or inadequate presence of statutes and require the combined efforts of the legislature, executive and judiciary to be thoroughly addressed as the first step towards the prevention of crimes.

Crimes against the vulnerable
Crimes can be characterized by their victims. Authorities can conduct targeted drills to prevent specific crimes against each specific section of the demography. This is already seen in legislation that aims to protect specific minorities. For instance, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 aims to protect members of the scheduled castes and tribes from caste-based violence, acts like the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961 aim to protect women from gender violence etc. Crimes against senior citizens and against children are on the rise in the country as well. The Prevention of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 and the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 were brought about fairly recently to deal with such upcoming issues. These are the four spheres of the most vulnerable minorities that are affected by targeted crimes.

Of course, the aforementioned laws, in addition to helpline numbers and specific provisions set up by the government for these vulnerable members of society are enforced wantonly upon society, but, another community susceptible to such crimes but grossly neglected by legislations is the LGTBQIA++ community. Hate crimes against this community are generally high and a majority of its members are shunned from their birth families, and eventually, also the legal system as it fails to guarantee them basic rights, freedoms and justice. Of course, the decriminalization of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code by the Apex Court of the country was, indeed, a step in the right direction with reference to this issue, but, the members of this community are still vying for the day when they will be treated truly equally, not only in the eyes of the law that has made a valiant attempt to accommodate this community in the mainstream, but also in the eyes of society that law strives to reform.

It is, indeed, a tedious process to account for each change with reference to each minority and its unique requirements for protection against crime to be tested and found compatible with each section of criminal legislature, but it is imperative to bring change in order to protect both, those who are exploited because they belong to a minority community, and those who belong to a privileged section of such minority community and aspire to misuse and abuse laws made for their benefit in order to exploit others.

Of course, the Uttar Pradesh State Government launched a new domestic violence help line during lockdown, aping all these countries wherein authorities were appraised of the dire situation of domestic violence during the pandemic through pre-existing help lines. Perhaps, it is time for Indian policy makers to look to the west and emulate their practices in crime prevention before situations become exceedingly dire. Further, speedier trials and higher rates of punishment are the need of the hour, as is the surety that a corruption-free, smooth, fair and just legal process will be guaranteed to each citizen that approaches the court. This will lay law-abiding citizens at ease and birth fear in the minds of others, for, as Nelson Mandela said, “When a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw.”

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