IN A year impacted massively by the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns, overall crime numbers in the country increased by 28 per cent in 2020 over the non-pandemic year 2019, according to the latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). However, this increase has been largely attributed to crimes registered for Covid-19 violations as other crimes actually decreased in 2020 compared to 2019.
The NCRB released its crime data for 2020 on Tuesday, recording 66,01,285 cognizable crimes comprising 42,54,356 Indian Penal Code (IPC) crimes and 23,46,929 Special and Local Laws crimes. It shows an increase of 14,45,127 (28%) in registration of cases over 2019 (51,56,158 cases). Crime rate (number of cases registered per one lakh population) increased from 385.5 in 2019 to 487.8 in 2020.
“Major increase was seen in the cases registered under Disobedience to order duly promulgated by Public Servant (Sec. 188 IPC) from 29,469 cases in 2019 to 6,12,179 cases in 2020 and under ‘Other IPC Crimes’ from 2,52,268 cases in 2019 to 10,62,399 cases in 2020,” the NCRB report says.
According to Ministry of Home Affairs lockdown orders during the pandemic, those violating the Centre’s guidelines on Covid containment were supposed to be booked under IPC Section 188 and Disaster Management Act.
The NCRB says that even in the Special and Local Laws category, more cases were registered under ‘Other State Local Acts’. From 89,553 cases in 2019, it increased to 4,14,589 cases in 2020.
These together resulted in 16,43,690 more cases registered in 2020 than in 2019. These cases were primarily those arising out of violations of Covid-19 norms. “Effectively, therefore, there is a decrease in registration of traditional crime by about two lakh cases,” the NCRB report says.
According to the data, two states, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, recorded abnormal spike in IPC crimes. From 1.39 lakh cases in 2019 in Gujarat, the figures jumped to 3.81 lakh in 2020, recording an increase of 174 per cent. In Tamil Nadu, it was even starker – IPC cases increased from 1.68 lakh in 2019 to 8.91 lakh, a jump of 430 per cent.
At least in Gujarat, this could be attributed to cases of Covid violations. According to the data, the state recorded maximum cases (2.27 lakh) under IPC Section 188 (invoked for Covid violations). Maharashtra, which was one of the worst sufferers in the first Covid wave, recorded 1.39 lakh such cases. It was followed by Andhra Pradesh (72,183), Uttar Pradesh (40,361) and Madhya Pradesh (34,753).
Cases of Unlawful Assembly (under IPC Sections 143, 144 and 145) too increased by 36 per cent in the year, with Rajasthan recording the highest number of such cases at 3,942. It was followed by Tamil Nadu (3,007), Kerala (2,280), Assam (755) and Maharashtra (748).
According to the report, due to complete lockdown from March 25 and May 31 last year, cases registered under crimes against women, children and senior citizens, theft, burglary, robbery and dacoity declined. Murder registered a marginal increase of 1 per cent while offences in the category of “Violent Crimes” decreased by 0.5 per cent.
The year 2020 also saw protests by farmers against the contentious farm laws passed by the government. The NCRB data shows that despite lockdowns, cases of offences against public tranquility increased by 12.4 per cent in 2020 over 2019.
A total of 71,107 cases of offences against public tranquility were registered under various IPC provisions during 2020, out of which rioting (51,606 cases) accounted for 72.6 per cent of the total such cases. In 2019, the figure stood at 63,262 cases.
Crimes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes registered an increase of almost 10 per cent each in 2020 over 2019.
A total of 50,291 cases were registered for committing crime against Scheduled Castes – an increase of 9.4 per cent over 2019 (45,961 cases). The crime rate went up from 22.8 in 2019 to 25 in 2020.
A total of 8,272 cases were registered for committing crime against Scheduled Tribes – an increase of 9.3 per cent over 2019 (7,570 cases). Crime rate increased from 7.3 in 2019 to 7.9 in 2020.
The year also saw a 78.1 per cent increase in Environment Related Offences – from 34,676 cases in 2019 to 61,767 cases in 2020. Crime head-wise cases revealed that those registered under The Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act, with 80.5 per cent (49,710 cases), were the highest followed by Noise Pollution Acts (State/Central) with 11.8 per cent (7,318 cases)
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