[Editorial] Violent Crimes during Pandemic

The National Crime Records Bureau has released its annual report, ‘Crime in India’, giving an insight into the crimes that ravaged India in 2021.

What are the key trends noted in the report?

  • The overall crime rate, expressed per 1 lakh people, has come down from 487.8 in 2020 to 445.9 in 2021.
  • The decrease in the crime rate is mainly due to a decrease in case registered for disobeying a public servant’s orders (related to lockdowns).
  • The chargesheeting rate has dropped from 75.8% in 2020 to 72.3% in 2021. A decline was also recorded in conviction rate- fell from 59.2% in 2020 to 57% in 2021.
  • However, the 2021 report recorded an increase in the number of violent crimes, such as murders, rapes, kidnappings, atrocities against children and robberies.  
  • Looking at violent crimes per 1 lakh people, statewise:
  • The highest numbers were recorded in Assam (76.6), Delhi (57) and West Bengal (48.7).
    • The lowest numbers were recorded in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.
    • When it comes to kidnapping and abductions, there has been a 20% rise.
  • Crimes against women has increased by 15%, against children by 16% and against senior citizens by 5%.
  • Of the crimes against women, cruelty by husbands/ his relatives accounted for 31.8% of the cases. This is an increase from the 30.2% recorded in 2020 and 30.9% in 2019.
  • The suicide rate at 12 per 1 lakh population is the highest in the last 5 years. Some of the main reasons were:
    • Domestic problems (33.2%)
    • Illnesses (18.6%)
  • Most of the suicide victims were- daily wage earners (25.6%) and housewives (14.1%).
  • When it comes to cyber crime, there has been a 5.9% increase in cases compared to 2020. This increase in cases was more so in rural India, while cyber crimes in metro cities registered an 8.3% decline.

What is the significance?

  • While India faced its 1st COVID-19 wave in 2020, the Delta variant made 2021 an equally difficult year.
  • It is worrying to see that the number of violent crimes has increased back to pre-pandemic levels. The drop in such cases, seen in 2020, seems to have been an anomaly- either because of lower registration of cases or because of a partial decrease in the occurrence of such crimes due to office shutdowns and extensive lockdowns.
  • The statistics show that domestic violence continues to be a major issue. This indicates that the shadow pandemic is yet to start waning, unlike the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The spike in cybercrimes in rural India is a consequence of increased adoption of digital devices for education, financial transaction and other essential purposes, without the necessary accompaniment of cyber-awareness.
  • The slow legal process is a major culprit behind this deplorable situation. For instance, the courts disposed of only 12,000 cases against the 26,000 rape cases sent for trial in 2021. Notably, there were a total of 1.85 lakh rape cases pending in 2021.
  • This pendency issues isn’t being helped by implementation of some questionable laws bringing in a deluge of cases.
    • For instance, there were just 47,000 cases of disobedience to civil servants pending till 2019. However, after social distancing norms started being implemented, the number of cases ballooned. While the courts were able to dispose of 4 lakh such cases in 2020 and 2021, some 5 lakh more cases are still awaiting trial.
    • Similarly, prohibition cases have ballooned from 26 lakh cases pending trial in 2019 to 34 lakh cases in 2021. Prohibition cases alone account for 10% of all pending criminal cases.
    • Cases pertaining to possession of small amounts of marijuana are also in thousands.

What is the way ahead?

  • While statistics cannot tell whether the numbers indicate that the times have become more unsafe or that crime recording has improved or that there is a combination of the two. However, it does show the clear need for more and better trained police personnel and judges.
  • According to the Bureau of Police Research and Development, some 20% of the sanctioned policing posts are vacant. This must be addressed.
  • The increase in cyber crimes in rural India can be addressed by cyber-awareness programs and assured law enforcement.
  • The governments could consider withdrawing the less serious cases, such as those registered for smaller violation of COVID norms.
  • Attempting to investigate and prosecute small offences, registered as a consequence of laws that are in need of reform, lead to clogging up of the criminal justice machinery. The political leadership needs to undertake serious efforts to review criminal codes.

Conclusion:

The latest report is another iteration of India’s dismal story of justice delivery. The increase in serious crimes hasn’t been accompanied by appropriate systemic upgradation. There is a need to address some basic issues like personnel shortage, case pendency and redundant legal provisions to get the criminal justice system running without snags.

Practice Question for Mains:

What are the major trends observed in the Crime in India report 2021? Discuss the significance and suggest some solutions. (250 words)

iasexpress app

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x