Fyodor Dostoevsky, in his famous novel Crime and Punishment, said “When reason fails, the devil helps”. Dostoevsky was ahead of his time in realizing the true nature of crime. Throughout his book he argued that crime was an extreme phenomenon where the perpetrator try to rise above the societal norms by disobeying it’s laws and rules. Crime has various definitions and various explanations from as basic as breaking the law to more philosophical and psychological interpretation.
Oxford dictionary define Crime as “an act or omission which constitutes an offence punishable by law”. It means crime is any offence that is punishable by law. Law plays a very significant role in recognition of crime. An act or omission that is not considered an offence by law would not amount to crime. This “recognition by law”, can include any type law, codified or uncodified, general or specific etc. For example, omitting to do an act of jumping in river to save a drowning man would not amount to crime but will become a question of morality.
Crime in modern times has been altered to fit the society. In earlier times crime was regarded as anything which is considered to be a sin as in ancient times, religion dominated most of the society. Going against the religion was considered as an offence that was punishable by the law formulated by the same religion and therefore it was regarded as crime. As when Galileo went opposite than the beliefs of church, he became a victim of bigotry and was termed as a criminal and was imprisoned. Crime has been modified throughout times to adapt to the changing notions of a ‘good life’. Now, crime roughly means an offence that disrupts the ideal lives of citizens.
Since crime is basically decided by the contemporary laws, a good legal system is necessary for pursuance of an ideal life. A good legal framework is needed to recognize all types of crimes without leaving anything that could potentially hurt the citizens but also at the same time shouldn’t restrict the freedom of citizens to lead a good life. A good legal structure indicates that the government is more responsible and should handle law enforcement more constructively.
Meaning of a ‘good legal system’
A good legal system means a system where there is an effective law enforcement, a legislature that is responsive to people’s needs and a judiciary that is unbiased and gives decision in the best interest of the society of which it is subject to. A good legal system means a good legal framework that is laid down to tackle crime efficaciously and make the life in a state free from the fear of anything illegal and dangerous.
A good legal system simply means a system where crime is effectively tackled and removed without disrupting the lives of citizens, where there is no scope for corruption and no influence on the judiciary or any other branch of the government that could possibly be turned biased. If the salary or promotion of an organ of a government is looked after by some public official, then that organ will never go against that particular public official since they can influence the salary or promotion of the concerned unit. This can harm the legal structure of a society as crime would not be punished and criminals would be excused. This is why it is said that in a good legal system, the law-making organ of the government should be free from corruption and influence any particular person or group.
A good legal system has to be transparent also. Transparency here means that every decision on a crime committed be known to general public. There should not be any concealment of any sort and the judgment of any crime should be public knowledge. Various features come together to make a legal system that is fit for the contemporary society.
Impact of a Good Legal System on Crime
A good legal system tries to eradicate crime by various methods which comes under the ambit of laws made by the legislature. A good legal structure tries to make laws and policies that are hostile to criminal activities.
When a good legal structure tackles criminal activity, not only the illegitimate acts or omissions suffers but also it aims to eradicate such behavior from the future too. This is talked about in the deterrent theory of punishment which says that punishment for a crime should be given to eradicate any such future possibilities of committing a crime. It focuses on educating the criminals of the dire consequences for indulging in criminal activities to stop felonies.
Crime tends to lose its spirit when it is tackled correctly as perpetrators gets tired of planning and committing a crime. A fear of punishment sets in the criminal that restricts them to further committing scandals. A good legal system helps in eradicating crime and illegitimate practices through the help of legislature and judiciary. The legislature makes laws that creates an environment which is unfavorable to crime. On the other hand, the judiciary provides punishment to the perpetrators which threatens any other future offender’s or criminal’s lawlessness.
A good legal system also aims to reform its criminals to be better citizens, this is known as the reformative theory of punishment. This theory states that, even if a person has committed a crime, that does not mean he ceases to be a human being. This theory believes that a criminal should be reconstructed morally through punishment.
Crime is a phenomenon that is a direct result of a well-established society. A society cannot survive without crime. Crime keeps society in a realization of all the possibilities and activities through which a society can be destroyed. In simple terms, crime helps society rebuild itself to be a better place where citizens living in it can have a dignified and happy life. A good legal system helps in recognizing these complexities of a society and encourages to take particular steps towards eradicating crime. A good legal system has an independent judiciary, legislature and executive to make them free from influence and being biased.
A good legal system also helps in tackling crime more effectively. If a legal framework is bad or ‘loose’, then crimes would go unpunished and consecutively will increase. This would result in a hostile environment in the society due to which the society will perish. So, a good legal system is needed to handle a society in a civilized way. An ideal legal system fights many irregularities and faults in itself before tackling lawlessness. It goes through many tests of society, taking in consideration of people and public officials before actually working against crime. This is why, it is hard to achieve a good legal system.
Author Details: Aman Karan (Delhi Metropolitan Education)