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New Delhi: An interesting piece of data that got buried in the voluminous Crime in India, 2021 report, released recently by the National Crime Records Bureau, is that in all six states with the highest conviction rate for crimes registered under the Indian Penal Code – and which covers heinous offences – the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is not in power.
The data on conviction rates for crimes under the IPC is included in Volume III of the report. Mizoram leaders the list with 96.7% convictions, followed by Kerala (86.5%), Andhra Pradesh (84.7%), Tamil Nadu (73.3%), Nagaland (72.1%) and Telangana (70.1%).
A higher conviction rate reveals that the states worked hard to ensure the prosecution and conviction of those accused and thereby ensure justice to the victims.
The data also revealed that among the Union Territories, Ladakh had a high conviction rate of 91% while Delhi had a conviction rate of 86.6%. They were followed by Jammu and Kashmir at 77.3%, Puducherry at 74.7% and Chandigarh at 67.9%.
Many BJP-ruled states have low IPC crime conviction rate
On the other hand, several BJP-ruled states were among those with low conviction rates in IPC crime, such as Assam (5.6%), Arunachal Pradesh 16.7%, Goa (19.8%), Gujarat (21.1%) and Himachal Pradesh (25.3%). Other non-BJP states which have low conviction rates include Odisha (5.7%), West Bengal (6.4%) and Sikkim (19.5%).
The conviction rate is also seen as a better yardstick for gauging crime in a state or UT than the total number of cases registered by the police or other law enforcement agencies. This is because when crime is compared between states or UTs on the basis of cases registered, it usually paints those registering cases honestly and liberally in a poorer light than those who try to keep their crime rates low by not registering cases or recording them as lesser offences.
According to the latest NCRB report, on an all-India basis, the total conviction rate for IPC crimes stood at 57%. The report revealed that trial was completed in a total of 11,86,377 cases whereas a total of 1,44,44,079 cases remained pending in courts at the end of the year. As such, the pendency percentage stood at 91.2%.
Conviction in SLL crimes remains high, but punishment for IPC crime lags
The report dealt with cognisable crimes falling under the purview of both the IPC and Special and Local Laws (SLL). A total of 89 crimes are covered under India’s SLLs dealing with criminal activities that the state governments frame for a specific purpose. These include crimes against women, such as under the Dowry Prohibition Act; those against children, as under the Juvenile Justice Act and Prohibition of Child Marriage Act; and those against SCs and STs as covered under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
SLLs also cover offences against the state, such as under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), Official Secrets Act (OSA), and Arms Act as well as the IT Act and Finance and Economic acts such as the Excise Act and the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act.
Usually, the conviction rate in such cases is quite high and the NCRB data also revealed it to be over 90% in cases under the Excise Act, which cover illegal possession of liquor; NDPS Act, which covers possession of drugs; and Arms Act, which covers illegal possession of weapons.
The IPC, on the other hand, deals with various offences such as murder, attempt to murder, robbery, dacoity, kidnapping and abduction, rape, assault on women, sexual harassment and acid attacks, to name a few.
It is these crimes which breed insecurity in the society. The performance of the police is usually judged on the basis of these crimes. In every police station, there is a display board in the Station House Officer’s (SHO) room which displays the number of crimes under various categories of IPC crimes for the year. Further, in the weekly meetings undertaken by the police commissioners or director generals, the crime situation is assessed on the basis IPC crimes. The reports are usually presented by the deputy commissioners or police superintendents.
Since the performance of police personnel and officers is judged on the basis of the crime report – and not solved cases – in their jurisdiction, the general tendency is to underreport or downplay incidents. The NCRB report, in a ‘word of caution’, states, “…the primary presumption that the upward swing in police data indicates an increase in crime and thus, a reflection of the ineffectiveness of the police, is fallacious.”
“‘Rise in crime’ and ‘increase in registration of crime by police’ are clearly two different things, a fact which requires better understanding,” the report reads. That is why a look at the conviction figures provides a better view of not only the cases in an area but also the efforts made by the police and prosecution to solve them and to ensure punishment to the guilty, respectively.
The latest NCRB report also states, “The presumption that crime occurs because of the failures of police, therefore, exhibits a lack of mature understanding of the theories of criminal behaviour,” and notes that “..the genesis of crime can be traced to interplay of various social, economic, demographic, local and institutional factors”.
No one convicted for over 57% of murders, 69% of acid attacks and 63% of sexual harassment cases
The report, however, illustrated how the conviction rates in most serious crimes remained abysmally low.
In cases of murder, the conviction rate was just 42.4%. This showed that in over 57% of murder cases, either the wrong people were arrested or if the right ones were held, there was not enough evidence to prove their guilt. Either way, there was either no justice for the victims, or innocent people were tried and detained.
Similarly, the conviction rate was just 39.6% in cases of culpable homicide not amounting to murder; 36.1% for attempt to murder; 39.9% for voluntarily causing grievous hurt; 22.4% in cases of kidnapping and abduction and 16.2% for voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons.
Further, the conviction rate was a low 30.8% in acid attack cases; 36.6% in sexual harassment cases and 31.5% in cases of wrongful restraint, confinement and assault on women with intent to outrage modesty.
Pendency of cases for serious crimes remains very high
Overall, when it came to pendency of cases, it was revealed that for most crimes, pendency remained very high. In murder cases, trial was completed in 10,147 cases during the year 2021 and the pendency percentage stood at 95.8% as there were 238,315 pending cases at the end of the year. In kidnapping and abduction cases too, the pendency was high at 96.7% as trial was completed in 9,084 cases, but 282,875 still remained pending.
Similarly, in cases of acid attack, trial was completed in 26 cases but remained pending in 1,078, leading to a pendency of 97.1%. In sexual harassment cases, trial was completed in 4,610 cases and the pendency stood at 95%, with 104,469 still pending at the end of the year.
Higher conviction, lower pendency
The NCRB data also revealed that the states which had a high rate of conviction in IPC crimes were usually those which had a lower pendency rate. States with low pendency included Andhra Pradesh at 58.5%, Telangana at 78.5% and Mizoram at 77%. Others with a relatively low pendency included Sikkim at 80.4% and Tamil Nadu at 83.4%.
On the other hand, the pendency rate in IPC cases was found to be over 95% in many states. These included Bihar (99.4%), West Bengal (98.8%), Manipur (98.7%), Odisha (98.7%), Arunachal Pradesh (97.9%), Meghalaya (97.3%), Himachal Pradesh (96.9%), Assam (96.5%) and Uttarakhand (96.5%).
Among the UTs, the highest pendency of IPC cases was in Lakshadweep at 99.5% and Andaman and Nicobar Islands at 93.3%.