Probation: Reformative Aspect of Criminal Justice

Written By- Adarsh Pharasi

‘Hate the Crime not the Criminals’. These words of Mahatma Gandhi reflect the modern approach of Penology which concentrates on reforming criminals. No one is born-criminal, it is the unfavourable circumstances in our life which makes a criminal. Therefore  probation serves the reformative approach of penology and aims at rehabilitating offenders to the norms of society to become a law abiding citizen. In the words of Sutherland and Cressey:

“Probation is the status of a convicted offender during a period of suspension of the sentence in which he is given liberty conditioned on his good behaviour and in which the state by a personal supervision attempts to assist him to maintain good behaviour.”

It is a method in which, rather than imprisoning the offender, is placed under the supervision of Probation officer for a specified period as per the conditions laid down by the court, with a view for his reformation.

Laws pertaining to Probation in India:

Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898 comprised the provision for probation of offenders under Section 562. After amendment Code of Criminal Procedure, 1974 consist of the said provision under Section 360. The Sub-section 1 Section 360 forms two classes of offenders entitled for probation:

  1. Any person not under 21 years of age convicted of an offence punishable with fine only or imprisonment for a term of seven years or less, and no previous conviction is proved against the offender, or
  2. Any person under 21 years of age or any woman is convicted of an offence not punishable with death or imprisonment for life, and no previous conviction is proved against the offender.

The provisions of the section are supplemented and elaborated by Probation of Offenders Act, 1958. Further Section 361 of the code makes it mandatory for the court to record reasons for not granting probation to an offender where the court could have granted probation. But Section 19 of the Schedule Cast and Schedule Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 restricts the application of provisions of Sec. 360 of CrPC and Probation of Offenders Act, 1958 upon the offender above the age of 18 who has committed offence under Schedule Cast and Schedule Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Procedure for Probation under Probation of Offenders Act

The act empowers the power to grant probation by court by two means:

  1. Power of Court to release certain offenders after admonition(Section 3)
  2. Power of Court to release certain offenders on good conduct(Section 4)

Probation after admonition may be granted upon the discretion of court if the person is convicted of offence of theft, misappropriation, cheating or any other offence punishable with two years of imprisonment or fine, or both and there is no other previous conviction of any offence.

Probation on good behaviour is granted when the court having regard to the nature of offence and offender and his good conduct thinks fit to release him on bond, with or without surety, that the offender will present himself to receive sentence in front of authority when called upon, not exceeding three years only when the offence for which the person is found guilty is not punishable with death sentence or imprisonment for life. The Court can appoint a probation officer for supervision of the offender during for a period not less than one year.

The Court may also require the offender to pay compensation as fine for his release on probation under section 5 of the Act.

Section 8: Variation of Condition of Probation

(1) If, on the application of a probation officer, any court of opinion that in the interests of the offender and the public it is expedient or necessary to vary the conditions of any bond entered into by the offender, it may, at any time during the period when the bond is effective, vary the bond by extending or diminishing the duration thereof so, however, that it shall not exceed three years from the date of the original order or by altering the conditions thereof or by inserting additional conditions therein;

Provided that no such variation shall be made without giving the offender and the surety or sureties mentioned in the bond an opportunity of being heard.

(2) If any surety refuses to consent to any variation proposed to be made under sub-section  (1), the court may require the offender to enter into a fresh bond and if the offender refuses or fails to do so, the court may sentence him for the offence of which he was found guilty.

(3) Notwithstanding anything hereinbefore contained, the court which passes an order under section 4 in respect of an offender may, if it is satisfied on an application made by the probation officer, that the conduct of the offender has been such as to make it unnecessary that he should be kept any longer under supervision, discharge the bond or bonds entered into by him.

Bond for probation

An offender is required to enter into a bond, with or without surety to be released from incarceration on probation. In Dasappa v. State of Mysore, AIR 1965 Mys 224., The release of probationer on bond with or without sureties on probation of good conduct is, in nature, a preventive measure which seeks to save the offender from the evil effects of 5 / 18 THE PROBATION OF OFFENDERS ACT, 1958 institutional incarceration and affords him an opportunity of reformation within the community itself. It is a discretionary remedy rather than a mandatory one. But the bond may be terminated if the offender hasn’t complied with the conditions of probation order, or under the conditions given under Section 8 of the Act. But, in Durgesh Ranjan Chakraborty v. The Administrator of Tripura, AIR 1965 Tripura 26., it has been said that for the forfeiture of bond and the failure to pay penalty on behalf of surety, the court is not empowered to order surety’s arrest.

Probation officer

Under Section 13 of the act a probation officer is the person appointed to be a probation officer by the State Government or recognised as such by the State Government; or a person provided for this purpose by a society recognised in this behalf by the State Government; or in any exceptional case, any other person who, in the opinion of the court, is fit to act as a probation officer in the special circumstances of the case. A probation officer works under the control of the district magistrate of the district in which the offender for the time being resides and his reports are confidential ‘provided that the court may, if it so thinks fit, communicate the substance thereof to the offender and may give him an opportunity of producing such evidence as may be relevant to the matter stated in the report.’(Section 7)

Special Provision for offenders under twenty one years of age

Under Section 6 of the act the offenders under 21 years of age convicted of crime punishable with imprisonment(not life imprisonment) shall be given benefit of section 3 and 4 by the court but if the court with regard to the nature of offence and offender, report of probation officer is of the opinion that such benefit shall not be granted to the offender then it can do so with reasons recorded for its decision.


The provisions of Section 360 of Cr.P.C. and Probation of Offenders Act are same except that for the special provision for offenders under 21 years of age Cr.P.C. provides that there should not be any other conviction but the condition don’t apply to probation under Sec. 6 of Probation of Offenders Act. But the scope of these two enactment shll not be confused as under Sec. 19 of The Probation of Offenders Act provides that the Sec. 16, 17 and 360 of Cr.P.C. will not apply in states where the said Act is operative. Besides these two enactments, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000 also provides for the release of children who have committed offences to be released on probation of good conduct and placed under the care of any parent, guardian or other fit person, on such parent, guardian or other fit person executing a bond, with or without surety, or any fit institution as the Board may require, for the good behaviour and well-being of the juvenile for any period not exceeding three years.

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