Some Random Thoughts about Victimological Movement in the World with Special Reference to India

Published date01 July 2018
Date01 July 2018
Subject MatterArticles
Some Random Thoughts
about Victimological
Movement in the World
with Special Reference
to India
K. Chockalingam1
Historically, priority of the criminal justice system was always to establish the guilt
of the accused and provide a punishment to the offender. Even after the advent
of scientific criminology, focus was on all aspects of the offender, to the complete
neglect of the victim. Victim was always treated as a witness, and victim justice has
been a struggle throughout the world. Many scholars and criminal justice admin-
istrators recommended urgent measures to improve the conditions of victims,
particularly after the historic Report of President’s Task Force in 1982 in the
USA. Since then a victimological movement emerged which culminated in the
creation of UN Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and
Abuse of Power, 1985. In this article, the emergence of victimological movement,
its impact and the subsequent developments in India are discussed.
Offender vs. victim and their position in Criminal Justice System (CJS), victimological
movement, evolution of victimology in India, recent developments
Position of Offender versus Victim in the Justice System
Historically, for centuries, when a criminal event occurred, the society was always
focusing on the offender who committed the crime and whatever follow-up
measures taken in relation to the crime were on the person who encroached on the
rights of a victim and not the victim who suffered at the hands of the offender.
When penology was retributive in nature, the major objective of punishment to
Journal of Victimology
and Victim Justice
1(1) 25–41
2018 National Law
University Delhi
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/2516606918764999
Chairperson, Executive Council, Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development, Ministry of
Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of India, Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, India.
Corresponding author:
K. Chockalingam, Chairperson, Executive Council, Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development,
Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports, Government of India, Sriperumbudur- 602105, Tamil Nadu, India.
26 Journal of Victimology and Victim Justice 1(1)
the offender was to inflict pain to the offender, making just deserts so that the
offender would undergo the suffering in the same manner as he caused to the victim.
When years passed and decades moved, there was a change in approach towards
the objectives of punishment, particularly after the advent of Ceasare Beccaria,
born in Italy in the year 1738. Cesare Beccaria was one of the greatest minds of
the Age of Enlightenment in the eighteenth century. His writings on criminology
and economics were well ahead of his time. Beccaria wrote his most influential
essay ‘On Crimes and Punishments’ under the broad field of criminology in
1764 when he was 26 years old. Three tenets served as the basis of Beccaria’s
theories on criminal justice: free will, rational thinking and manipulability.
According to Beccaria—and most classical theorists—free will enables people to
make choices. Beccaria believed that the ability to make a rational thinking and apply
it to make choices which will facilitate them to attain what they desire and achieve
their own personal gratification. In Beccaria’s interpretation, law exists to preserve
the social contract and benefit society as a whole. But, because people act out of
self-interest and their interest sometimes conflicts with societal laws, they commit
crimes. The principle of manipulability refers to the predictable ways in which
people act out of rational self-interest and might therefore be dissuaded from
committing crimes, if the punishment outweighs the benefits of the crime, rendering
the crime as an illogical choice. He emphasized the need for adequate but just
punishment, and went so far as to explain how the system should define the
appropriate punishment for each type of crime.
Unlike few documents before it, Beccaria’s essay ‘On Crimes and Punishments’
proposed to protect the rights of criminals as well as the rights of their victims. In his
essay, he also prescribed specific roles to the various members of the courts. His
treatise included a discussion of crime-prevention strategies. As a pioneer in crim-
inological thought, Beccaria’s influence, even during his lifetime, extended to shape
the rights listed in the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights. His essay ‘On Crimes
and Punishments’ served as a guide to the founding fathers of the US Constitution.
Beccaria’s theories, as articulated in his treatise ‘On Crimes and Punishments’, have
continued to play a role even at the present time. Recent policies impacted by his
theories include, but are not limited to, truth in sentencing, swift punishment and the
abolition of the practice of death penalty in Europe and many other countries
including some US states.1 In course of time due to continuous criminological
research, the scientific criminology believed that crime is a learned behaviour and
caused by adverse social and family conditions of the offender and the treatment
approach to the offender is the effective way of handling crime and the criminal.
During the period when criminology and penology dominated the scene of
crime and punishment, victim was completely forgotten and the personnel
managing criminal justice system got contended with the functions of investigation,
prosecution and punishment of the offender if the guilt of the accused was proved.
The players of the criminal justice system did not think beyond that and no wonder
that victim was not in their agenda and the sufferings of victim before, during and
after the crime were completely ignored by the justice system.
1 See (last visited 5 December 2017).

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