Covid violations led to rise in total cases filed in 2020
For a year with over two months in a hard lockdown for the country, 2020 logged a sharp increase in the number of criminal cases registered, according to the National Crime Records Bureau’s Crime in India report released on Tuesday.
Total number of criminal cases registered rose by 28%, the highest since 2002, which is the earliest year for which the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) has data. The 2020 crime statistics have to be read in the context of the pandemic and any comparison with past or future reports should be done with adequate caution.
Overall, cognizable crimes went up by 28% -- from 5.16 million to 6.60 million. Of these Indian Penal Code (IPC) crimes (they make up about two-thirds of all crimes) went up by 31.9% and Special and Local Laws (SLL) crimes went up by 21.6%.
However, if possible Covid-19-related violations are left out, the figures decrease – backing anecdotal evidence that Covid-19 triggered lockdowns in reality led to a drop in crime.
According to the Crime in India report, Covid-19 related violations are covered under three sub-headings in the total figures: “Disobedience to order duly promulgated by Public Servant”, “Other IPC Crimes” among IPC crimes, and “Other SLL Crimes” under SLL crimes. Disobedience crimes increased 21 times from 29,469 in 2019 to 612,179. Other IPC crimes increased four times from 0.25 million to 1.06 million, and other SLL crimes also increased by a similar degree from 0.08 million to 0.34 million.
Once these categories are excluded from the total number of cases, instances of crime go down from 4.79 million to 4.59 million between 2019 and 2020. This means total instances of alleged crime – excluding pandemic-related crimes --went down by 4.3% with IPC crimes reducing by 12.4% and SLL going up by 8.6%.
Among major IPC heads, offences against property and those relating to documents registered the biggest decrease: of 25% and 11%.
“Offences against body” decreased only 0.5%. This category includes crimes that registered the biggest decrease: kidnapping (down 19%), death by negligence (down 13%), rape (down 12%), assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty (down 3%).
Hurt, which makes up half of body crimes, registered a 6% increase. Attempt to culpable homicide (up 15%) and attempt to commit murder (up 13%) – these two crimes make up about 5% of body crimes -- registered the biggest increase. Murder cases grew the least at 1%.
To be sure, not all kinds of IPC crimes decreased. Apart from pandemic-related violations those against public tranquillity (includes unlawful assembly, riots, promoting enmity between groups, affray) also increased 12.4% from 63,262 to 71,107. Riot cases, which make up about 3/4th of public tranquillity cases, increased 12.2%: from 45,985 in 2019 to 51,606 in 2020.
The closing of courts due to the pandemic also resulted in increasing pendency of cases. The total pendency percentage of IPC cases rose by around 5 percentage points from 88.9% in 2019 to 93.8% in 2020.This was 88.1% in 2018. For SLL cases the pendency percentage rose by 8 percentage points to 91.3% in 2020.This was 82.6% in 2018.
However, police’s rate of filing charge sheets in IPC cases in 2020 was 75.8%, the highest since 2015, when it was 77.7%. This rate was 93.8% for SLL cases, the highest since 2016, when it was 95.42%.