Data on police & court disposal of cybercrime cases indicates that the pendency of cybercrime cases has increased in the recent years. The number of pending cases crossed 70,000 by the end of 2020 and remained above 70,000 even by the end of 2021. Pendency rates varied across states.
In the ongoing series of our exploration into the world of cybercrime, we looked at historical data, unravelling its geographic spread, and shedding light on the primary motivations behind these illicit acts. Upon closer scrutiny, it becomes evident that there has been a sharp upswing in the reported incidents of cybercrime over the past five years. Notably, states such as Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Telangana have emerged as significant contributors to this digital epidemic.
As we delve deeper into this, it becomes apparent that ‘fraud’ stood out as the dominant impetus behind more than half of these cyber crimes, closely trailed by the disturbing motives of ‘sexual exploitation’ and ‘extortion.’
On an average, only 35% cyber-crimes are disposed of by the police.
To assess the efficiency of law enforcement in the detection and investigation of criminal incidents, it is essential to examine the case disposal rate and the backlog of pending cases. The cases handled by the police force can be classified into several subcategories, including those where final reports were filed, categorizing the cases as false, stemming from factual or legal errors, or being non-cognizable. Additionally, there are cases where charge sheets were not filed, but final reports affirmed their validity. Furthermore, we have cases where charge sheets were indeed filed, both among the incidents registered within the same year and those carried over from the previous year.
The data on the disposal of cybercrime-related cases by the police show that between 2016 and 2021, on average, only 35% of the cases have been disposed of by the police. The rest are cases pending for further investigation. The total number of cases for investigations grew suddenly & significantly in 2020 and 2021 from 76,669 to 1,03,988 and from 1,03,988 to 1,27,440. The police disposal of cases grew from 23,684 to 29,820 and from 29,820 to 55,427 during the same period. While the pace of total cases for investigation grew faster, the same cannot be said about police disposals.
Tamil Nadu tops among pendency of cases, followed by Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra
The geography and the nature of law enforcement also determine the outcomes of criminal cases, and the efficiency of the law enforcement mechanisms. The geographical distribution of the pendency of cases reveals that Tamil Nadu has the highest share of pendency of cases out of the total cases for investigation, with almost 91% of the cases filed are pending for investigation as of 2021. It is followed by Andhra Pradesh with 79% pendency and Maharashtra with 77% pendency.
Incidentally, states that had higher case burden like Uttar Pradesh has around 38% pendency, while Telangana has 48% pendency. Gujarat has pendency of 38% and Rajasthan at 24%, the least among the larger states.
Chennai tops with 98% pendency in police disposal, followed by Mumbai and Delhi among major cities.
Cyber crimes are dominated around urban areas, where the usage of technology is higher. Be it loan apps, or financial frauds, the urban centres act as a breeding ground for cyber-crimes. Accordingly, policing in urban centres remains a crucial aspect of the detection and investigation of cyber crimes. Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Hyderabad account for more than three-fourths of the total cases for investigation among the total cases in 20 major cities in India as of 2021.
The data on the pendency of police cases related to cyber-crimes at a city level indicates that major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, and Kolkata have pendency in more than 80% of the total cases filed for investigation in those regions at the end of 2021. Chennai outperforms all cities, with around 98% of cases pending, followed by Mumbai at 86% and Delhi at 82%. Bengaluru and Hyderabad perform relatively better, with 42% and 57% pendency respectively. Relatively, tier-2 cities such as Surat, Jaipur, and Lucknow have a lower pendency, almost below 30%.
While a certain extent of this pendency can be attributed to a lack of adequate resources, this also partially indicates the complex nature of cyber-crimes and the difficulty in investigating those crimes.
Modest improvement in the convictions in cyber-crime cases
The percentage of cases tried by courts and whose trial is finished out of the total cases for trial has been declining since 2016. It was 7.3% during 2016, which fell to 2.1% during 2021. Similarly, the number of cases that are disposed without any trial grew from 0.4% to 10.9% during the same period.
The Conviction Rate, i.e., the percentage of cases convicted out of cases in which trials were completed also grew modestly from 27% in 2016 to 42% in 2021, after recording the highest conviction rate of 68% in 2020. The percentage of pendency declined from 92.3% to 87% during the same period.
The state-level data on pendency show that, in large states such as Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat, the pendency of cases is above 90% as of 2021.