Over the past three decades human rights movements in India have persistently interrogated systems of criminal justice in the country. The concerns have ranged from addressing the problem of arbitrary detention during the emergency to constructing entire communities as criminal thereby justifying forced dispossession and/or mass violence. While overt violence by state actors and their complicity in violence by dominant private actors has been a major concern, there has also been the problem of the abdication by the state with respect to provision of the means for bare life to a majority of the people, the denial of the right to bare life compounding their vulnerability to a repressive rule of law. There is a widespread acceptance of the fact that the law is unequal especially in terms of access to and delivery of justice, inequality of process negating the fundamental guarantee of equality.
This collection of essays re-examines the field of criminology through an interdisciplinary lens, challenging in the process unproblematic assumptions of the rule of law and opening out avenues for a renewed and radical restatement of the contexts of criminal law in India. This collection is a significant step towards mapping the ways in which interdisciplinary research and human rights activism might inform legal praxis more effectively and holistically. The contributors are a diverse group – widely respected activists, bureaucrats, scholars, and professionals – who share concerns on criminal justice systems and the need to entrench human rights in the Indian polity.
Chapter 18: The Contexts of Criminology: A Brief Restatement
The Contexts of Criminology: A Brief Restatement
The essays in this volume have attempted to investigate the fields of criminal law and interrogate the fundamental assumptions of the rule of law in constructing criminality and fashioning its treatment by law. In this concluding essay, I will attempt to explore in a very cursory fashion some constitutive problems in the ways in which persons and communities are imagined in criminal law and criminology. Some of these issues have been inadequately theorised and used within the domains of criminal justice in India although they have been addressed by other disciplines, within their respective disciplinary protocols.1
Colonialism and the Rule of Law
T.B. Macaulay remarked that in keeping with the prerogative of the conquerors ...