Criminal Justice and Public Policy

This course aims to adopt a fine balance between doctrinal and empirical analysis of the criminal justice institutions, with an interdisciplinary approach to respond to critical problems in criminal law, governance, and public policy.

The criminal justice system is mainly made up of five institutions namely the legislature, the prisons, the police, the prosecution, and the courts. These institutions are an integral part of the State, and they are expected to perform core functions such as maintenance of law and order, public safety, dispute resolution, and protection of rights and liberties, among others. Given the all-encompassing nature of these institutions’ control over both public and private spheres of the society, it is imperative to understand and analyse their structural framework and functionality not just through a positivist and/​or instrumental approach, but also from a critical criminological perspective. Such a critical perspective is central to understanding and responding to the intersectional nature of issues such as police violence, deprivation of life and liberty, access to quality legal aid, overcrowding in prisons, over-criminalization, the cumulative impact of incarceration etc., which lie at the heart of rule of law based democracy, and as well as affect the marginalised populations disproportionately.

Further, criminal law being one of the State’s strongest arms to regulate conduct is utilised
for making interventions with the objectives of maintaining social relations between citizens, order, security, and economy. A systematic study and evaluation of mechanisms, designs, objectives, and practices of the criminal justice system is important for a complete
understanding of the nature of State’s interventions and governance processes, a mainstay
of the University’s public policy and governance programme. It will as well converge with the Law and Development programme’s objective of introducing students to diverse debates on the social and political roles performed by public/​legal institutions within the criminal justice system.

This course also intends to accentuate the civil society’s lack of serious engagement with
criminal justice and governance issues, and the opacity with which the legislative and
executive processes are undertaken in India. Consequently, identifying and examining the
intersectional issues in the criminal justice system, along with the State’s interventions and
decision-making processes is crucial for both, those interested in the advanced study of law, and those interested in public policy and governance.