November 26, 2020 9:59:39 pm
The time span between filing an FIR to the day when a trial court delivers judgment has increased from two to three years in the past decade, according to a report by the Praja Foundation, ‘State of policing and law and order in Mumbai’. Based on RTIs, the report says that from 2008 to 2012, it took 25.8 months for the entire process to be completed, which increased to 40.4 months between 2013 and 2017.
Nitai Mehta, founder and managing trustee, Praja Foundation, said, “The duration includes both the time taken for investigation and conducting the trial. In spite of there being an increase in the time taken to file a chargesheet, it does not show a corresponding improvement in the conviction rate in these time slabs.”
Apart from this, while the trends observed in the white paper over the years have largely remained constant, there has been an increase in the number of police personnel who lost their lives this year due to Covid–19.
There has been a rise in the number of cases of rapes and molestation registered in the city, the report states. As compared to 2015-16, rape and molestation cases have risen by 24 per cent and 25 per cent in 2019-20. Police have attributed the rise to more women coming forward to report sexual offences as compared to the past.
Another finding has been that while the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act stipulates that a trial be conducted within a year, 42 per cent cases were pending trial for up to three years while 14 per cent were pending trial for more than three years as of 2019.
When it came to conviction rates, crimes against women and children had the lowest conviction rates as compared to other crimes. A year-on-year comparison shows that as compared to other crimes, there was improvement in conviction rate in 2019 and the conviction rate for crimes against children has fallen. Also, as compared to other crimes in 2019, crimes against women were the lowest reported category of crimes at 31 per cent followed by crimes against children at 38 per cent.
A look at the trial and investigation of all crimes under the Indian Penal Code in the city shows that at the end of 2019, 76,763 cases were pending investigation and have been carried to the current year. This adds up to 64 per cent of the cases pending investigation as compared to 70 and 69 per cent in 2017 and 2018.
When it came to trials, too, at least 94 per cent of the cases were pending trial at the end of 2019, the same percentage as the previous year. The report said that to improve the scenario, it was necessary to ensure all vacancies in the police force are reduced and police personnel are provided proper housing in order to improve their efficiency. But the report said that 62 per cent of police personnel were not allotted housing as of March 2020 in Mumbai.
The report also said that there was an 18 per cent vacancy in the Mumbai police, most of it at the level of ACP and lower rung officers. There was a 35 per cent shortage in officers of the ranks of police sub-inspector involved in investigating cases. When it came to a shortfall in departments, the police control room had a 49 per cent shortfall in staff.
Apart from the police force, allied agencies assisting police investigations like the Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) are also not performing well. The report said that in 2019–20, the FSL examined 22,530 cases, the lowest number since 2015. While there were a total of 41,000 cases submitted to FSL, it managed to test only 55 per cent of the cases as compared to 88 per cent last year.
The report says that while the State Police Complaints Authority (SPCA) was established to look into complaints against the police in Maharashtra, its Konkan, Nagpur and Aurangabad divisional units are non-functional.
An RTI query seeking the status report of the State Security Commission, which was to be set up to advise the government on security issues, revealed that it had not been established.
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