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Every time Uttar Pradesh goes to polls, the ruling party tom-toms the state’s low crime rate during the campaign. At 112, UP has the lowest crime rate — the number of crimes registered per 100,000 population — in the country for offences covered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The highest crime rate is in Delhi — 917.
However, when overall crime, including those under special and local laws, is taken into account, the picture turns on its head. UP shoots towards the top of the list. For overall crimes, UP’s rate is 1,293 — more than 10 times its IPC rate. Delhi’s overall crime rate, on the other hand, is 958, about the same as its IPC rate.
So, what’s keeping UP crime figures low when only IPC is taken into account? Are the UP police not registering cases? Or is UP collating data erroneously? These are questions that the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which released India’s crime data for 2015 last month, is grappling with — and plans to write to states about.
Data show that while a majority of states registered more crimes under the IPC, UP relied more on special and local laws (SLL) such as the Arms Act, Goonda Act and Motor Vehicles Act. As against 2.41 lakh IPC cases, UP registered 25.49 lakh SLL cases in 2015.
Which means that for every crime registered under IPC, UP Police registered 10 cases under SLL. To put the numbers in perspective, UP accounted for 58% of all SLL cases registered in the country. Also, in the only four other states (Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Kerala and Chhattisgarh) where IPC cases lagged behind SLL cases, the ratio ranged from 1:2 to 1:4.
NCRB suspects that UP Police may be compiling data in a manner that tends to show fewer IPC cases even though their actually registered numbers may be higher. NCRB sources say it is likely that in cases where both IPC and SLL are invoked, UP Police takes cognisance of only SLL sections while filing the data.
All major crimes — murder, rape, kidnapping, robbery, burglary, theft, etc. — attract IPC sections. The numbers of IPC cases are what are considered in assessments of law and order in a state.
However, many of these crimes, depending on circumstances, may also attract special and local laws. For example, a terror attack would invite IPC sections dealing with murder and attempt to murder, as well as sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), Arms Act and Explosive Substances Act. A case of rioting could invite charges under IPC, as well as sections of the National Security Act (NSA) and Goonda Act if repeat offenders are involved.
In such cases, the thumb rule — which is laid down by NCRB for data collection, and is enshrined in the Criminal Procedure Code for prosecution — is to take cognisance of the offence that is more heinous or attracts greater punishment. However, at times, the interpretation of the person compiling the data can come into the picture.
“It may or may not be intentional fudging. But this sort of anomalous data has been coming from UP for several years now. The state has some stringent local laws such as the Goonda Act. If it is invoked in a case where minor sections of the IPC are used, the state may count it as an SLL case. But that’d take an IPC case out of the database,” an NCRB officer said.
UP police sources said between 7 lakh and 8 lakh Goonda Act cases are made out by the state every year.
But could the low number of IPC cases in UP also be due to non-registration of FIRs?
“That’s a problem in many states, but none of them shows the IPC-SLL anomaly,” the NCRB officer said. Also, if you add SLL cases to IPC figures, UP’s crime rate is high. Which means that registration of offences is reasonable, but they are being shown under different categories.”
The UP Police differs. It says that the high number of SLL crimes were due to inclusion of traffic violations in the crime data, and the large number of Goonda Act cases.
ADG (Crime) Abhay Prasad, who supervises the functioning of the UP State Crime Records Bureau, said, “We register a very high number of cases under the Motor Vehicles Act. The Goonda Act and Gangster Act also have high figures. UP has over 21 crore people, so the number of traffic violations is higher too. We include them in the SLL category, and so the numbers are high.”
The NCRB official disagrees. “All states send traffic violation data under the category of violations under Motor Vehicles Act. Also, if traffic violations were so rampant that they could jack up SLL cases so sharply, they’d reflect proportionately in IPC data on rash and negligent driving. But it’s not so,” the officer said.
In the NCRB data on deaths due rash and negligent driving, UP has the highest figures — over 15,000 cases. But Tamil Nadu isn’t too far behind 15,000, and Maharashtra has recorded over 12,000 such cases.
UP Police also rejects the idea that a large number of IPC cases are being shown under SLL. “There may be some difference of perception between NCRB and SCRB. There may also be cases where an FIR carrying sections of IPC as well as SLL gets counted under SLL. But such cases are rare. They are not the reason why UP has over 25 lakh SLL cases,” Prasad said.