Data from the NCRB’s CII-2020 report indicates that the pendency of IPC-related cases with the police increased to 38.2% by the end of 2020 compared to 29.2% by the end of 2019. This increase in pendency is despite a considerable increase in the number of disposed cases in 2020, which as we explain in this story is an aberration.
In an earlier story, we noted that the number of registered crimes increased in 2020, as per the data available in NCRB’s Crime in India – 2020 (CII) report. While the crime rate reduced across most of the crimes in 2020, the overall increase in the number of crimes was mainly due to the crimes related to enforcement of COVID-19 related lockdown & Social-distancing measures.
The onset of COVID-19 & the restrictive measures had an impact on the number of cases reported across crimes. Apart from reporting & registering a crime, the disposal of these crimes is an important step in ensuring that justice is delivered.
Recently, we analysed the impact of COVID-19 on the disposal of cases by the courts during 2020. Because of COVID-19, courts disposed 41% fewer cases in 2020 compared to 2019. In this story, we look at the trends in the disposal of cases by the police during 2020.
Increase in the number of Cases Chargesheeted by the Police in 2020
Among the pending cases which the police took up for investigation in 2020, there is an increase in the number of cases that were charge-sheeted compared to 2019. This trend is visible both for Indian Penal Code (IPC) crimes and Special & Local Laws (SLL) -related crimes.
As far as crimes under IPC are concerned,
- Out of the 54.84 lakh cases investigated by police in 2020, 34.47 lakh cases were disposed, and 21.34 lakh cases were pending by the end of 2020. The number of cases disposed in 2020 was around 9% higher than the cases disposed in 2019.
- The number of pending cases by the end of the year also increased significantly. The number of pending IPC cases increased by 63% by end of 2020 compared to 2019 whereas it increased by only 5.5% in 2019 compared to 2018.
- Out of all the cases investigated by police in 2020, they were able to dispose around 62% whereas, in 2019, it was around 70%. The lower disposal and higher pendency are understandable in wake of the increase in the number of new cases reported in 2020.
- Among the cases that were disposed, three-fourths were charge-sheeted and sent to courts for trial. The number of cases charge-sheeted in 2020 was 26.11 lakhs, higher than the 21.23 lakhs in 2019.
- At the same time, there is a fall in the number of cases disposed by filing the final report. In 2020, around 8.33 lakh cases were disposed after filing the final report while this number was 10.32 lakh in 2019.
For crimes under SLL,
- The number of SLL cases disposed by police increased from 19.15 lakh in 2019 to 20.74 lakh in 2020. As in the case of IPC-related crimes, a steeper increase was observed in the number of pending cases in 2020 compared to 2019.
- Among the disposed cases, the number of Chargesheeted cases in 2020 increased compared to 2019.
Increase in the number of charge-sheeted cases mainly due to offences related to COVID-19 related enforcement
While there is an increase in the number of cases charge-sheeted by the police in 2020 compared to 2019, the extent of this increase is not uniform across the various crimes. A major part of this increase is due to the increased charge sheeting of the offences relating to ‘Disobedience to order by a Public Servant’. These are cases related to violations of COVID-19 enforcement measures like lockdowns, curfews, etc. As highlighted in the earlier story, there has been a substantial increase in the number of offences registered under this crime head. Among these cases investigated by the police in 2020, around 78% have been disposed of, with the rest pending by the end of 2020. Of the 4.85 lakh cases disposed under this crime head in 2020, around 4.82 lakh cases were charge-sheeted while the final report was filed in 2.9 thousand cases.
Compared to this increasing trend for cases under ‘Disobedience to order by a Public Servant’, the trends have not been as prominent in the case of other crimes.
- In crimes relating to Murder, the number of cases charge-sheeted increased by only around 500, while that of the final report by 91. The number of cases pending by the end of 2020 increased by more than 1,000.
- In the cases related to Hurt, the number of cases charge-sheeted increased by more than 10,000 in 2020 compared to 2019. However, those cases that were closed by the police itself by filing final reports were reduced compared to the previous year. In comparison, the number of pending cases by the end of the year increased by over 55,000.
- Assault on Women and Theft are among the two crime heads under which fewer cases were registered in 2020 compared to 2019. In the case of Theft, there is a fall in both the number of cases charge-sheeted as well as a final report filed. In continuation of the trend under this crime head, a higher proportion of cases were disposed by filing a final report compared to those that were charge-sheeted.
- There is also a slight fall in the number of cases relating to Forgery, Cheating & Fraud which is reflected in the fall in a number of cases charge-sheeted and those where the final report was filed by police.
- Offences relating to Rash Driving were among the crimes with a substantial fall in the number of new cases registered in 2020. This is reflected in the fewer number of cases disposed of in 2020 i.e., either through charge sheeting or by submitting the final report. However, among the cases that were disposed in 2020, the majority were charge-sheeted.
In an earlier story, we highlighted that the specific nature of many of the IPC crimes was ambiguous, as they are categorized under Other IPC Crimes. There is a substantial increase in the number of such crimes registered in 2020. This has resulted in a considerable increase in the number of pending cases under this category.
Increase in Chargesheeting for SLL crimes under ambiguous categories
As highlighted earlier, there is an increase in the disposal of SLL crimes in 2020 compared to 2019, with charge sheeting being the main action of disposal. However, this trend is not reflected in the major SLL -related crimes. In fact, the number of cases disposed of has reduced in 2020 for a few of these major crimes under – Prohibition Act, Excise Act & Motor Vehicle Act. This is also reflected in the reduction in the number of cases that were Chargesheeted in 2020, compared to 2019. For offences under these Acts, the number of pending cases at the end of 2020 was higher than at the end of 2019.
In the earlier story, we highlighted that a major increase in the crimes under SLL were under the heads ‘Other State Local Acts’ and ‘Other SLL Crimes’. The overall increase in the charge sheeting for SLL crimes during 2020, can be attributed to the increase in the number of cases charge-sheeted under these heads.
Increase in the pendency of cases by the end of 2020
Data from CII-2020 indicates that the number of cases disposed of by the police during 2020 was higher than in 2019. The Chargesheeting rate among the disposed cases also increased to 75.8% in 2020 from 67.2% in 2019. Despite the increase in disposal, the number of cases pending with the police increased substantially by the end of 2020. This is due to a considerable increase in the number of new cases registered in 2020. The pendency (with the police) among all IPC crimes was 38.2% by the end of 2020 compared to 29.2% by the end of 2019.
The increase in disposal in 2020 could be an aberration since a major share of this increase was for crimes registered for violation of COVID-19 measures like lockdowns & curfews. In the case of other crimes, this increase was minimal or not visible.