Crime in India

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Does rising crime graph as visible in data mean deteriorating law and order and vice versa?

If international data on crime is analysed, it shows that countries perceived to have better systems of law and order also have high rates of crimes (number of crimes per 1 lakh population), while countries with dysfunctional governance, most of the times, display low rates of crimes.

According to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) data, on seven counts of

Serious crimes — which include

  • murder,
  • rape,
  • sexual violence,
  • assault,
  • kidnapping,
  • burglary and
  • theft

High Rates of Crimes in?

  • Sweden (with 6,456 crimes per 1 lakh population), Denmark (6,041) and the Netherlands (5,523) have high rates of crimes.

Low Rate of Crimes in?

  • The countries with low rates of crimes are Somalia (1.5), Iraq (2), Libya (2.9) and Haiti (5).

It would be naive to argue that Somalia is safer than Sweden.

  • India’s crime rate (87) itself compares with that of Lebanon (59), Yemen (67) and Kazakhstan (96).

Within India

  • Kerala, considered to be a better policed state has one of the highest crime rates,
  • while UP, whose poor law and order issues often hit headlines, has one of the lowest.

Why is it so?

  • The answer lies in the response of government and civil society to crime data and how sense of law and order in India is measured solely through registered crimes.

As soon as crime graph of a particular region, as reflected in data, rises, the minister responsible reprimands the concerned officer. The officer, in turn, tries his best to keep the numbers to the lowest. One of the ways this is allegedly done is by refusing FIRs.

  • Non-registration of FIRs was reflected as a chronic problem of policing.
  • According  International Crime Survey Data to Indian scenario, 30 per cent people never report a crime to the authorities, while over 50 per cent are turned away by the police.

Survey & Report:

  • A 2003 crime victimisation survey conducted in Tamil Nadu by noted criminologist K Chockalingam found that only 4 per cent of sexual offence victims report the crime.
  • In a judgment on November 12, 2013, a five-judge Supreme Court bench headed by then Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam, said, “Burking of crime leads to dilution of the rule of law in the short run; and also has a very negative impact on rule of law in the long run since people stop having respect for rule of law.”

Some of the suggestions made include

  • legal recognition of calls made to Dial 100 (police control room) as FIRs,
  • statutory status to crime victimisation survey,
  • digital recording of complaints and oral evidence and step-by-step tracking of investigations through technological interventions.
  • “In developed countries in Europe and the Americas, governments regularly conduct crime victimisation survey (CVS) to get a sense of the level of crime in a region or state.

What Lacks in India

  • The difference between survey results and crimes actually registered are taken seriously and the attempt is to minimise the gap. No such system exists in India.
  • The consequence is that policies to combat crimes are formulated on the basis of limited data of registered crimes only and thus fail to have desired results.
  • That 94 per cent of investigation time is wasted in writing case diaries and recording statements, is an argument in favour of technological solutions and better policing.

Way forward & Suggestions:

  • “If all crimes are registered, realistic patterns can be drawn and preventive measures be taken accordingly.”
  • Rule of law is just as important for the country’s GDP. Krishna cites a survey conducted by The Economist Intelligence Unit among 301 top executives of Forbes 500 companies.
  • The survey held that rule of law (88 per cent) was the third most important consideration for companies after ‘stable political environment’ (92 per cent) and ‘ease of doing business’ (92 per cent).
  • Dial 100 calls to be registered as FIRs, however, poses the formidable challenge of investigating such huge number of crimes by an overburdened police.
  • The presentation provides for checks in the form of elimination of cases that do not need investigation or have no evidence at a preliminary stage and making the offence of knowingly lodging a false complaint cognisable.
  • According to experts, only in India, once a case is registered, it always lands up in court. In most countries there is a system of screening to reduce the number of cases that are chargesheeted or prosecuted after chargesheeting.
  • The Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) even has a provision for this under Section 157. But NCRB data shows that this section has been invoked in only 0.03 per cent cases in 2014.
  • A string of technological interventions, at a total cost of less than Rs 1,000 crore, to help meet the expectations arising out of better registration of FIRs. These include up-gradation of police control room with police specific call centre software which is compatible with CCTNS and acceptance of electronic case diaries in courts under Evidence Act.

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