While the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) 2016 data shows a 34-per cent drop in crime incidences across the country, the story may not be all hunky-dory. It has been achieved primarily because of a changed data collection, by keeping out incidents such as traffic challans issued, among many others, from overall crime incidents.
From 73.26 lakh crime incidents registered under various laws in 2015, the number dropped to 48.31 lakh in 2016. Similarly, the crime rate has come down from 581.8 in 2015 to 379.3.
NCRB data shows this has largely been due to inclusion of crimes under special and local laws (laws such as Arms Act, Goonda Act, etc) by some states, which inflated the figures.
For the last 10 years now, total number of crimes in India hovered between 50 lakh and 70 lakh, and the crime rate ranged from 455 to 580 — crime rate is the number of crimes registered per 100,000 people.
But the latest NCRB data suggests the numbers should be between 20 lakh and 40 lakh, and the crime rate between 170 and 370.
States such as Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand have reported extremely high number of crimes under the category of special and local laws (SLL) for years. The magnitude of this inflation is such that incidents under SLL are 10 times those registered under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which deals with crimes such as murder, theft, robbery and rape.
NCRB has chosen to correct this data for the past three years in its 2016 report. In a corrigendum published in the report, NCRB has reduced total crimes registered under SLL in UP by 99 per cent, in Chhattisgarh by 88 per cent and in Uttarakhand by 95 per cent. This effectively has brought down SLL crime figures for all India down by 60 per cent and reduced total crimes (IPC+SLL) by 34 per cent.
If one took corrected figures for the past years as well, 2016 would in fact reflect an increase of about 2.6 per cent in overall crimes.
Giving a reason for the correction, the NCRB report has said: “The reported cases under SLL of the states like Motor Vehicle Act (Challans), Gunda Act, Local Police Act, Section 106 to 110 of Cr.P.C. have been excluded from ‘Other SLL Crimes’ from 2014 onwards, as either FIRs are not registered in above cases or if registered, same are not sent to judicial magistrate.”
An official said NCRB will record in overall crimes only offences where an FIR has been registered. For other offences, such as traffic challans, NCRB will provide separate data from next year.
Since there are a large number of traffic challans, they inflate the crime figure massively without taking into account the nature of crime, the official said.
“This year, we have tried to facilitate better data collection and its validation so that improved data could be used for better policy-making,” NCRB director Ish Kumar said.
In a report published on September 16, 2016, The Indian Express had highlighted this anomaly. In 2015, UP had the lowest crime rate (112) in the country for offences covered under IPC, the highest being Delhi (917).
However, when overall crime, including those under SLL, was taken into account, UP shot towards the top of the list. For overall crimes, UP’s rate was 1,293 — more than 10 times its IPC rate. Delhi’s overall crime rate, on the other hand, was 958, about the same as its IPC rate.
As against 2.41 lakh IPC cases, UP registered 25.49 lakh SLL cases in 2015. This meant that for every crime registered under IPC, UP Police registered 10 cases under SLL.