Friday, 22 November 2013

Paltry 10% conviction rate falls further to 7%

Police Force Understaffed By 14%, Says White Paper


    The already abysmal conviction rate for violent crimes in Mumbai has dipped further while its police force remains understaffed, reveals a new report, lending explanations for the feeling of unsafeness in the city. 
    Conviction of criminals for violent crimes—including murder, rape and kidnapping-—decreased from 10% in 2011 to 7% in 2012. While this drop occurred, the incidence of heinous crimes continued rising. Nearly 300 women were sexually assaulted in 2012-13, a 57% increase over the previous year, 

says a white paper on the state of policing and law and order by the voluntary organisation Praja Foundation. 
    The report, released on Thursday, says that the police are currently understaffed by 14%. Among the ranks of police sub-inspectors (PSI) and assistant police inspectors (API)—who usually investigate serious crimes—the shortfall is even greater at 58%. “PSIs and APIs are trained to investigate such crimes. With such a major shortage, it is little wonder that chargesheets are not being filed and crimes not properly investigated,” said Praja’s project director Milind Mhaske. As against the sanctioned 3,125, the force today has only 1,319 PSIs. 
    Experts note that lack of 
punishment emboldens criminals and occasions a decline in safety. 
    “It is a dangerous trend when a city has no assurance of punishment for a person with criminal intent. In our democratic processes, penalty is solely dependent on framing of charges, investigation and trial. The lack of police personnel encourages serious crimes,” said Nitai Mehta, founder trustee of Praja. Mehta added that conviction is also affected by other factors, such as poor collection of evidence, hostile witnesses, long delays and inadequacies of public prosecutors. 
    Human rights lawyer Mihir Desai believes investigations are not being done scientifically. “The police arrest and charge people since there is pressure to show that they have solved a case. But often the evidence does not stand in court,” he explained. 
    Mounds of cases are pending in the city at different stages. Of the 13,349 cases taken up for investigation here in 2012, 46% were pending. And of the 52,442 cases tried the same year, 9% reached completion. Desai points out that complainants often lose interest or are unable to appear in court at later stages of cases. 
    The report, which analysed law and order on a host of parameters, shows up North central Mumbai-—from Bandra to Vile Parle—as the most unsafe and notorious for house breakins, chain snatchings and vehicle thefts. It iterates the need for long-pending police reforms: “There is a need to strengthen and, where necessary, create infrastructure for continuous training, forensic labs, crime mapping and crime forecasting.” 
    Lawyer Y P Singh believes systemic hurdles are to blame for the poor conviction rate. “Earlier, public prosecutors were under police administration, so the coordination between the two was better. Since the prosecution became independent, it dented the performance of both.” 

Times View: The latest statistics confirm the yawning gap between crime and conviction rates. It’s this gap that encourages criminals and contributes to crime. The refusal to employ modern investigative tools fuels this problem as much as shoddy prosecution work in court and, very often, the investigator’s lackadaisical approach or bias. There needs to be an overhaul of the system, in terms of both logistics and mindset.

Source::: The Times of India, 22-11-2013, p.02,

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