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Published : October 03, 2017 | Author : Rukhman Singh
Category : Miscellaneous | Total Views : 484 | Rating :

Rukhman Singh
Student at Symbiosis Law School Pune

The Concept of Crime

Unlike torts, crime is not just a wrong against an individual but is also a wrong committed against the society or a public wrong and includes acts like murder, rape and theft to mention a few. It is not a case of differences between two parties but is a case between the wrongdoer and the state. The definition of the concept of crime is important; of course, because of the types of questions it directs attention to and the order of phenomena it leads one to investigate. A definition of crime establishes the subject matter of the discipline of criminology and sets limits on what is to be considered criminological work. Therefore, a humanistic criminology can only be developed if an appropriately humanistic definition of crime is used as its initial point of departure. The most commonly accepted definition of crime is ‘an act that is capable of being followed by criminal proceedings’, which provides us with a wide classification of the term in that the only common element of crime is that previous legal proceedings have outlined it as such.

The idea of the need for punishment is a common element to defining crime; however it may also include any action or omission which causes harm to person or property or in any way violates the criminal law. The concept of crime often, but not necessarily, involves violation of moral codes followed by some level of social disapproval but is it important to recognize that not all crimes are disapproved of by all people.

It is possible to determine four main frameworks in which it is possible to make sense of the ways crime can be defined, although each demonstrates noticeable difficulties associated with defining the concept of crime. The first of these is crime as a social construction; this poses a difficulty for creating a general definition of crime as it varies across cultures. The second framework is crime as defined by religious doctrine or authority; within this context there is both a conflict between what would be considered a crime by society and religion but also between religions themselves. Although less prominent in modern day society, a crime can be defined as an action that goes against the law of God. Sharia Law in Middle East is one such example. In Saudi Arabia, even in this day and age, a woman driving is a crime and even though this law is absurd, that is the law. Honor killings and domestic abuse are examples of behavior, which may be sanctioned within a particular religion but would disagree with basic state law, most commonly in westernized societies.

Crime can also be understood as a reflection of the law of a particular nation-state; an act can only be defined as criminal in accordance to the laws of the state in which it was committed. This creates a difficulty in defining crime as what may be considered a criminal action in one state or country may not be viewed the same way in another.

Finally, more recently, concepts of crime have emerged that are formed beyond the constraints of specific nation-state laws from general social and political theory. In most western societies, crime is of individualistic responsibility and so places blame on individuals rather than the systems they are contained within. However, by viewing crime in relation to social and political theory it is possible to look at the causes of a person’s behavior, which may render them irresponsible for their actions, and also to define actions as crimes, which may not be considered so within the society itself. For example, during the reign of Hitler in Nazi Germany, the systematic slaughter of the Jewish race was not considered criminal; however, when viewed in retrospect, the Holocaust is considered to be the ‘greatest crime in history’. Regardless of German legislature at the time, it is widely agreed that the Holocaust was criminal, however, when it came to trial, only a small number of officers were named as personally responsible. This is because it was decided that many of those involved could not be charged as they were simply following the instructions issued to them by their superiors and so did not willingly commit the crimes. Here we can see another difficulty emerging which affects the definition of crime, which goes beyond the action itself and looks at the situation and individuals involved.

In conclusion, looking at the above 4 frameworks and examples of Saudi Arabia, Honor Killings, Domestic Abuse and the Holocaust, we understand that the content of crime changes along with time and the changing needs of the society. Not only that, it changes from society to society. In India, a woman driving is something that is not frowned upon whereas; in Saudi Arabia women driving is a crime. Even within the country of India we can see laws changing from state to state for example selling liquor in Maharashtra is legal whereas is a crime in Gujarat. Kerela has no restrictions on cow slaughter but cow slaughter in Andhra Pradesh and Telengana is a crime.

Overall, it can be argued that no action in itself is criminal; it is the consequences that follow which define it as being so. An act cannot be classed, as a crime until the offender is caught and punished, in the absence of a public authority to do so, there is no crime. From this we can see that there exist great difficulties associated with defining the concept of crime ranging from social and historical context to individual and personal circumstances. It is unlikely that a general definition of crime that would satisfy all possible elements of crime in all environments is reachable and so it is important to take into account such specific details when attempting to create a more specific, socially and historically bound definition of what constitutes a crime. Thus, there cannot be a scientific definition of crime and only its content can be described.

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