The 2019 Crime in India report of the NCRB indicates that the number of registered ‘Offences against Public Tranquillity’ in 2019 was the lowest in 10 years. This decrease is largely due to the reduction in the registered cases of ‘rioting’. Here is a review of the data.
Recently, the country witnessed nation-wide protests against the new agrarian bills, with protests still being organised in a few states. Many farmer unions and opposition parties have called for shut down and held public rallies as a mark of protest against the bills. There are have been instances where few of these protests turned violent and the police had to make arrests, and take necessary action to maintain law & order.
Earlier in the year, there were protests organised against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) in many parts of the country, with Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh being an epicentre of the anti-CAA protests. Some parts of Delhi also witnessed riots, resulting in loss of lives.
Apart from these more widely known instances, there are many a protest, shutdowns, rallies , riots etc. which take place across the country for various reasons. While efforts are made to ensure that the protests are organised peacefully and permission are sought from the law-enforcement authorities for the same, there could be incidents which disrupt public life and peace. Such offences are punishable by law under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
Chapter VIII of the IPC contains various sections that list offences categorised as ‘Offences against Public Tranquillity’. These includes Section 141 to Section 160.
In its annual Crime in India (CII) report, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) furnishes details of the offences booked under these various sections of ‘Offences against Public Tranquillity’. In NCRB’s CII – 2019 report, the ‘Offences against Public Tranquillity’ are grouped into four broad sub-categories.
In this story, we look at the data provided in NCRB’s CII report regarding the incidence of these offences, trend over the years and across the states etc.
Incidence of these Offences in 2019 lowest in the last ten years
As per NCRB’s CII report, the total number of cases booked under the various sections of ‘Offences against Public Tranquillity’ in the year 2019 was 63,359. This is a reduction of more than 17.5% compared to the previous year i.e. 2018, where in it was 76,851.
While 2019 recorded the least number of offences booked under this category over a period of 10 years (2010-2019), the highest number of cases recorded during this period was in 2017 with 78,051 offences. Over the 10-year period, there has been no specific increasing or decreasing trend with the numbers fluctuating over the years.
The fall in number of these cases in 2019 is contrary to the overall trend in cognizable IPC crimes, where in they increased from 31.3 lakhs in 2018 to 32.2 lakhs in 2019. The offences under this head constitute of 1.96% the total cognizable IPC crimes recorded in 2019. In the years 2017 and 2018, the ‘Offences against Public Tranquillity’ constituted 2.54% and 2.45% of total cognizable IPC crimes respectively.
The fall the numbers is largely due to fall in the number of ‘Rioting’ cases
Among the major four sub-categories under which the various cases of ‘Offences Against Public Tranquillity are grouped, majority of the offences are booked under ‘Rioting’. Hence, the number of cases in this category tends to follow the number of ‘rioting’ cases.
In 2018, while the number of offences booked under ‘Rioting’ and ‘Unlawful assembly’ has reduced, the number of offences under ‘Promoting enmity between groups’ and ‘Affray’ had slightly increased, contrary to the overall trend. The crimes under Affray (Section 160) refer to fighting in a public place that results in affecting the peace. However, in 2019, fewer offences were booked across all these sub-categories, with a sharp decline of almost 20% in the number of cases booked under ‘rioting’.
Fall in the number of Offences booked under Rioting in Bihar & Uttar Pradesh
While there is a general reduction in the number of ‘rioting’ cases in most of the states in 2019, the major decrease is observed in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh.
In Uttar Pradesh, the number of offences registered under ‘rioting’ in 2019 fell by nearly 36% compared to the number in 2018. In Bihar, the number reduced by over 29% from 2018. With substantial reduction in both these states, Maharashtra occupied the top spot in the number of offences recorded for rioting in 2019, although the numbers in this state also registered a decrease of about 20% from 2018.
Karnataka, Kerala , Haryana and other states have also registered fewer cases under ‘rioting’ in 2019. Jharkhand is an exception among the states that recorded higher numbers under ‘rioting’, where the number in 2019 increased by 20% compared to 2018.
Compared to 2017, the numbers decreased in 2018 as well in the case of Bihar & a few other states. However, this decrease was offset by an increase of cases in Maharashtra in the same year.
Rioting related to ‘Land & Property Disputes’ constitute the major proportion of the cases registered in Bihar. The fall in overall number of cases under rioting, can be attributed to the fall in number of cases relating to Land & Property disputes. The number of ‘Rioting’ cases related to land & property disputes in Bihar was 7030 in 2017 which fell to 6608 and 3707 in 2018 & 2019 respectively. Bihar also registers a higher number of ‘riot’ cases due to Family disputes and agrarian causes.
The case for Uttar Pradesh is not clear since a majority of the offences booked for rioting are categorised as ‘Other Rioting’ and there is a comparative decrease in these numbers. The same is the case with most of the other states, with a substantial number of ‘Rioting’ cases categorised as ‘Other Rioting’.
Kerala stands out with clearer categorization under Rioting. Major portion of these offences are either due to Land/property related disputes or due to participation in ‘Andolan & Morcha’.
Fewer cases are registered under ‘Affray’ & ‘Unlawful Assembly’ in Bihar & Uttar Pradesh
While Bihar and Uttar Pradesh report high number of cases when it comes to Rioting, it is not the case for other sub-categories i.e. ‘Unlawful Assembly’ & ‘Affray’ .
In 2019, out of the 8889 offences booked under ‘Unlawful Assembly’ across the country, Bihar reported 33 and Uttar Pradesh reported 140 such cases. Rajasthan reported the highest number under this head with more than 3 thousand such offences in 2019. It is followed by Tamil Nadu & Kerala. The number of offences reported under this head in Assam & Tamil Nadu is relatively higher compared to other states, when one compares the cases reported in these states under ‘rioting’. Among various states, Rajasthan has higher numbers under ‘Unlawful assembly’ than under ‘Rioting’. A similar trend with respect to state-wise breakup was observed even in 2018.
Even in the case of ‘Affray’, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh reported significantly lower numbers. Bihar reported no cases under ‘Affray’ between 2017 & 2019. Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh reported 5,6, & 3 cases in 2017, 2018 & 2019 respectively. Haryana, Kerala & Tamil Nadu are among the states which reported a higher number of cases under this sub-category.
Scope of under reporting in lesser evident offences
Like in the case of other offences, it has to be noted these numbers refer to the reported & registered ones and do not necessarily represent the actual extent of these offences. The same has been highlighted in an earlier story and is corroborated by a study conducted by TISS (Tata Institute of Social Sciences) & BPRD (Bureau of Police Research and Development). This could explain the lower numbers reported for ‘Affray’ and ‘Unlawful Assembly’ in states like U.P & Bihar compared to the cases reported under ‘Rioting’ since rioting as an offence is more evident. Like in the case of other crimes, we see some form of even reporting in Kerala across the categories.
Since a substantial number of these cases are registered for political & other form of protests, the disposal and the conviction rates in these cases are also important to understand the trends. We would look at these numbers in our next story.
Featured Image: Cases of Rioting