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Crime and Punishment

As moral science and ethics are major branches of philosophy, theories of punishment are closely linked to philosophy, and intellectuals have expressed their views on crime and punishment from the earliest times.

Crime and punishment are intricately bound, i.e., a favourable outcome or honour for good deeds and a negative result or punishment for bad deeds. We can claim that crime is human activity, but not all human behaviour can be called a crime; only behaviours that are contrary to social values are regarded as criminal. But even then, the definition of crime may vary depending on region, time, and conditions. This is because while few actions have been classified as crimes in some societies, this may not be the case in others, and even within the same society, the definition of crime may alter over time. Let us learn about crime and punishment separately for better understanding.


A Crime is a breach of behaviour that is penalised by the state. In criminal law these days, there is no universally agreed definition of the term “crime,” but legislative definitions have been given for certain motives. The most widely held belief is that crime is a legal category; in other words, it is a crime if the applicable and relevant law declares it to be so. A criminal offence is an act that is harmful not only to an individual or people, but also to a community, society, or the state, according to one definition. Behaviour like this is prohibited and penalised under the law. Crimes like murder, rape, and theft are prohibited all around the world.

There may be an unlimited number of crimes, and thus, an infinite number of causes of crime. As a result, neither the crimes nor the motives of crimes can be classified. However, some of them can be as follows:


We know that some human activities follow a code of conduct and are therefore referred to as good conduct. On the other hand, some human behaviours violate social codes of conduct, and as a result, they are referred to as corruption, because each community establishes certain standards and limitations for individuals. However, when an individual disregards all of these norms and principles due to social pressures and greed, his behaviour can be classified as corruption. He abuses his status and its government.


The rise of communal feelings and communalism gave rise to mass violence, in which violent acts were carried out generally against a specific group, minority, class, or other groups, causing unease among them. Because in some situations, not only are people blaming each other, but they are injuring and killing each other. These examples can be found in a variety of communities and regions. While in some circumstances, violent activity between two communities could be seen throughout time, in which one group or community makes every attempt to remove the existence of the other group or community, this is not always the case. Genocide is the term for this.


A burglary occurs when someone enters a building with the intent of stealing, injuring someone, or causing property damage.

 Childhood Abuse

Child abuse can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including neglect, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse.


The term “cybercrime” is a wide range of internet offences via scams and hacks.

Domestic Violence 

Misbehaviours that one-person shows over another inside a family or relationship are referred to as domestic abuse.


Punishment is necessary to keep society’s discipline and structure in order. If a person breaks the law or violates social standards, or commits a crime, he is subjected to physical, economic, or mental harassment as a kind of punishment. As a result, punishment is traditionally viewed as a negative moral consequence. Because ethics is an early and well-established branch of philosophy, thinkers have been expressing their views and proposing theories of punishment since the dawn of time.

 These theories can be divided into three categories:

Retributive Theory 

According to this theory, the culprit was only given the amount of punishment he had committed during the crime. The majority of Greek thinkers endorsed this philosophy of retribution. This idea aims to maintain social order, and everyone who disobeys the established order will be punished in the same proportion.

Hard retributive theory and soft retributive theory are the two varieties of retributive theory. In the hard method, those factors are not taken into account when a criminal commits a crime, whereas, in the soft approach, those conditions are taken into account when a criminal commits a crime. 

The positive aspects of this retributive theory of punishment are that it incorporates the feeling of vengeance into the penalty, and the criminal will receive the same punishment as he did during the crime.

Reformative Theory 

On the one hand, it aims to reform criminals, while on the other, it aims to reform society as a whole. Because this theory of punishment thinks that, while a criminal is typically punished for his or her crime, no attempt is made to understand the causes of the crime, and that if we focus on the causes of the crime and eliminate them, crimes can be significantly reduced. In the current era of humanism, this reformative theory is thought to be relevant, and it has even been suggested that because traditional theories of punishment failed to deter crime, it has increased in society.

Capital Punishment 

We can’t imagine a society without punishment because it is the core of society. Whereas simple punishments are employed to punish minor offences, heinous crimes demand harsh punishment, and capital punishment is one such harsh punishment. Because it puts an end to criminals’ lives, we can say that capital punishment is the harshest form of punishment. It is granted in the case of serious offences.

Because there is a distinction between capital punishment and killing or assassination, there is a legal framework in place to administer this penalty. Its goal is also to keep the social order in place.


In a well-organised society, crime and punishment are strongly intertwined. Punishment is a term that is used frequently in the criminal justice system. Certain acts are classified as ‘crimes’ solely because of the term punishment. We can recognise from society’s history that repressing the public’s barbarous and primitive instincts would have been difficult without sanctions. Those in the judiciary have been using the weapon known as ‘punishment’ against their subjects to instil fear in the public’s minds about their rulers’ capabilities and powers.


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