New Delhi: A large number of criminals involved in sexual harassment, assault, criminal intimidation, burglaries and theft get away scot-free in metropolitan cities like Delhi and Mumbai, as more than half the victims do not report the crimes to the police. Even in instances where victims go to the police, first information reports (FIRs) are registered for only half of these complaints. The low reporting numbers can be attributed to either the victims not wanting to get involved in police and court matters, or believing there is insufficient evidence to move forward, or that the police may not entertain their complaint or that the authorities may not be able to do anything about it.
As a consequence of the lack of reporting, a report by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has revealed that crimes against women are going largely unpunished. According to the ‘Crime Victimisation and Safety Perception: A Public Survey of Delhi and Mumbai’ report, only 7.5% of sexual harassment cases in Delhi and 11.1% of such cases in Mumbai are reported to the police.
The survey, designed by Nielsen India Pvt. Limited with support from the European Union and the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung für die Freiheit, sampled 3025 respondents in Delhi and 3575 in Mumbai. It covered 275 respondents each in the 11 Delhi police districts and 13 of Mumbai.
The survey aimed to study how many crimes were reported to the police, the reasons for crimes going unreported, the police’s response to complaints and the public’s overall perception on safety.
Maja Daruwala, director of CHRI, said, “The data gathered from a survey such as this gives an insight into how to bridge the gap between crime experience and crime reporting. The findings could also be used to help the police and government to allocate limited resources strategically and scientifically”.
Nandkumar Saravade, a retired IPS officer who advised CHRI on the report, said, “The one thing that comes across in the report is that it identifies the problem areas so that the police can work on it”.
The survey revealed that 13% of all households in Delhi and 15% of those in Mumbai had experienced one of the seven categories of crime covered.
In both cities, people remained most fearful of theft. And while in Delhi, the respondents were four times more fearful of sexual crimes than those in Mumbai, households in Mumbai were generally more fearful of assault.
The majority of all crimes in both cities took place in the daytime between noon and 6 pm. The survey also revealed that while the safety perception generally increased with economic prosperity, overall people in Mumbai felt safer than those in Delhi.
While theft remained the most commonly experienced crime in both the cities, sexual harassment cases were the second most common in Delhi at 9% while in Mumbai assault was the next most common crime, at 9%.
The survey also reflected on how people in Delhi are fearful of remaining outside their homes after dark. With the fear of sexual harassment particularly high, they also do not want women to stay out very late.
According to the report, “The cross city difference sets in as the night deepens – 20% of respondents in Mumbai would start worrying for their safety in their own neighbourhood only after midnight. In comparison, only 3% in Delhi would feel safe beyond 11 pm”.
Similarly, when it came to travelling beyond the immediate neighbourhood, the survey pointed out that “there is a clear difference in safety perception based on gender. Whereas only 7% of respondents would be worried for a lone male member staying away from home beyond 8 pm in Delhi, 52% would worry for a lone female member of the household at the same hour of the night”.
The reasons are not misplaced. Nearly 3% in Delhi and about 2% in Mumbai claimed that a woman member of their household had been a victim of sexual harassment. In Delhi, one in 11 cases was of sexual harassment and of these 94% were of staring or passing lewd comments. In Mumbai, about 4% cases were of sexual harassment and nearly 25% of these involved either indecent touching or groping, or being followed by men.
Alarmingly, the reporting of such sexual harassment cases was extremely low, with just one in 13 cases in Delhi and one in nine in Mumbai being reported to the police.
Overall, 53.2% of all crime in Delhi and 58.2% in Mumbai went unreported. Primarily, this was because of the following reasons: “did not want to get stuck in police/court matters (48% Delhi / 37% Mumbai); lack of evidence (33% Delhi and 21% Mumbai) and did not think police would entertain the complaint or do anything about it (36% Delhi and 27% Mumbai).”
The survey also found the police reluctant in registering a FIR even in cases of serious and cognisable crimes. In both Delhi and Mumbai, FIRs were registered in less than half the cases reported to the police. Since only half of all crimes were reported to the police, the CHRI said, this meant that FIRs were registered in only a quarter of all crimes committed.
For those households who reported a crime, roughly 36% in Delhi and 51% in Mumbai said they were satisfied with the police response.
The survey said the satisfaction with the police response could grow if the police personnel underwent soft skills training so that they can help victims understand what to expect after a complaint is made. This would also reduce frustration, improve cooperation and lead to the better delivery of justice.
The survey findings also said that there was an urgent need to address the issue of obstructions and violations by the police in registering FIRs. “Preventing, refusing and delaying FIR registration impedes access to justice at the very beginning. It is incumbent on supervisory officers to monitor and take strict action against in every instance,” said the report.