Transformative Justice in India: Moving Beyond Retribution to Restoration and Transformation

In a riveting presentation by Konia Mandal, an esteemed Assistant Lecturer at Jindal Global Law School, O.P Jindal Global University, attendees were taken on a journey through the intricacies and imperatives of the Indian criminal justice system. Joined by co-presenter Anwesha Panigrahi, an Assistant Professor at ICFAI Law School, Hyderabad, the duo painted a compelling picture of the current state of the justice system in India, and the urgent need for it to evolve beyond its retributive roots.

At the outset, Mandal emphasized how the existing justice system, despite appearing reformative on the surface, continues to be marred by undertones of vengeance, repression, and oppression. The poignant assertion was that while the liberal viewpoint recommends the justice system to not embody pure outrage, it remains a formidable challenge in practical execution.

The presentation gracefully transitioned into discussing the concept of restorative justice. Here, the emphasis was on the approach’s virtues of compassion, forgiveness, and healing. It’s no secret that restorative justice has been a topic of considerable deliberation in India. However, as Mandal and Panigrahi highlighted, it has not managed to significantly influence or reshape the country’s criminal justice landscape. Advocates of restorative justice emphasize a victim-centric resolution, aiming to bring solace and closure to the victims. Yet, the larger picture remains incomplete without addressing the needs of the offender.

Drawing inspiration from the insights of Pepinsky and Quinney’s peace-making criminology, the presenters illustrated how the restorative approach could be extended further. Mandal stressed that the aim should not only be to restore but to transform – to change the socio-cultural and psychological elements that give rise to criminal behavior in the first place. This brings in Morris’ concept of transformative justice, which goes a step beyond restoration.

The unique feature of transformative justice, as the duo explained, is its focus on the ‘less eligible’ offender. In doing so, it shifts the spotlight from merely addressing the crime to understanding its underlying causes, and from there, working towards societal and individual transformation. This broader perspective ensures that justice is not just about punishment, but about healing and prevention, emphasizing rehabilitation and societal reintegration.

However, adopting a transformative approach is not without its challenges. The feasibility of implementing it in a vast and diverse nation like India, with its intricate tapestry of cultures, beliefs, and socio-economic conditions, is a massive undertaking. Nevertheless, the presenters optimistically spoke about the possibilities and promises that restorative and transformative justice holds. They urged the stakeholders in the justice system – from policymakers to practitioners – to consider these alternative frameworks as viable paths forward.

In conclusion, Konia Mandal and Anwesha Panigrahi presented a compelling case for a justice system that moves beyond mere retribution. By adopting restorative and transformative approaches, there’s a promise of a justice system that is more equitable, compassionate, and effective in preventing crime in the long run. It’s a vision that demands a shift in mindset, but as the duo convincingly argued, it’s a vision well worth striving for.