As controversy and anger over the alleged gang-rape of a Dalit woman by Thakur men in Hathras in Uttar Pradesh continue to smoulder, the latest crime data show that the state recorded the highest increase in crime against women, at 66.7%, in four years to 2019.
Across the country, cases of rape against Scheduled Castes women increased by 37%, and of assault by 20%, our analysis of data from Crime in India 2019 report released on September 29 and previous years’ data shows.
Overall, crime against women (CAW) increased by 23.3% and crime against the Scheduled Castes by 18.8%. This dwarfed the 9.5% increase in total cognisable crimes (relatively serious offences under the Indian Penal Code and other special laws) reported in the same period.
Although more crimes against women and against the SCs were reported, the investigation and prosecution of these cases was tardier than other categories’. By the end of 2019, investigation was pending in a higher proportion of crimes against women--33.8%, as compared to 29.3% of all cognisable IPC crimes. Trial had been completed in only 7.6% cases of crimes against women.
For crimes against the Scheduled Castes, this figure was 6.1% and for crimes against the Scheduled Tribes, 8.4%.
Of these, 60% or more cases had led to an acquittal.
Watch our Hathras coverage here:
Although improved reporting (and not just an increase in actual incidents of crime) may have contributed to the overall increase in registered crimes, the data point to a skew in public perception--among crimes against women, rape cases make the headlines but it is the offence defined as cruelty by husband and relatives in the Indian Penal Code that continues to form the largest proportion of total registered cases, at 30.9%.
On crimes against the Scheduled Castes, offences such as voluntarily causing hurt to extort property or confession that are included in the category of ‘simple hurt’ constituted 28.9%, the highest proportion, of the total registered crimes against the Scheduled Castes.
Crimes against women
Offences such as dowry deaths, cruelty by husband and relatives, acid attack, sexual harassment, assault, rape, trafficking, kidnapping and abduction are some of the major crimes constituting ‘crimes against women’.
23% increase from 2015
Registered cases of crime against women have seen a consistent increase since 2015, rising by 7.3% in 2019 alone. Aside from UP that recorded the highest increase at 66.7%, other states with high rates of increase include Haryana (54.4%), Rajasthan (47.2%) and Odisha and Bihar at around 34-35%.
In 2019, UP alone accounted for nearly 15% of all registered crimes against women in India. With 59,853 registered cases, the state saw 164 such crimes, on average, every day. Despite an increased number of cases, Uttar Pradesh’s vast population--the largest of any other state--kept its crime rate against women relatively low, at 55.4 cases per 100,000 people.
By contrast, the highest rate of crime against women was reported in Assam (177.8) and Delhi (144). The two states’ crime rate against women remained consistently high over the four years to 2019, though Delhi witnessed a 22% fall in registered cases over this period.
Large proportion of cases involve cruelty by husband/relatives
Cruelty by the husband and relatives (under Section 498A of the Indian Penal Code) constituted the biggest proportion of registered crimes against women at 30.9%, followed by assault (21.8%), and kidnapping and abduction (17.9%).
Nearly 90 cases of rape every day, most offenders known
Rape made for nearly 8% of crimes against women in India in 2019, when a total of 32,316 cases (including 283 incidents of murder with rape and rape of girls) were registered. This averages 88 rape cases a day or one rape every 16 minutes. Of these reported cases, 80% of rape survivors/victims are adult women, in the age group of 18 to 45 years of age; 60% are in the age group of 18-30 years.
Data also indicate another trend: 7.3% of all rape cases involved repeat incidents for the woman who was targetted (Section 376(2)(n)). In 94.2% of cases in 2019, the offender was known to the victim. In 51% of the cases, offenders were friends, online friends, live-in partners and ex-husbands--against whom charges of rape on pretext of marriage can be filed. In 36% of cases, the accused were family friends or neighbours, and in around 9% of cases, family members.
Gangrape (Section 376D) constituted nearly 6% of all rape cases in India with 1,931 cases registered during 2019. Rajasthan recorded the highest number of gangrapes (902), followed by Uttar Pradesh (301) and Madhya Pradesh (162).
High proportion of pending investigations
By the end of 2019, investigation was pending in 200,018 cases of crimes against women. This constituted 33.8% of all such cases compared to 29.3% of all cognisable IPC crimes. In cases of assault, rape and cruelty, more than 50% of cases were pending investigation for over six months.
Crimes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes
Crimes against Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes include three categories of crimes:
- Atrocities committed against SC/ST by non-SC/ST members under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act), 1989 (hereafter Atrocities Act);
- Crimes such as murder, hurt and robbery committed against SC/ST members under the Indian Penal Code by any person (read together with the Atrocities Act); and
- Crimes committed under the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955.
19% increase in crimes against Scheduled Castes from 2015
Crimes reported against the Scheduled Castes increased by 18.8% from 38,670 in 2015 to 45,935 in 2019, with Haryana and Himachal Pradesh standing out with the biggest increase, even as several states show a decline (see table below).
‘Simple hurt’ against SCs
In 2019, of the crimes most reported against the Scheduled Castes, ‘simple hurt’ (voluntarily causing hurt to extort property or confession or deterring a public servant from duty) constituted the highest proportion at 28.9% (see graph below). Bihar reported the highest rate of such cases (32.1 per 100,000), followed by Madhya Pradesh (22.7) and Rajasthan (12.4).
37% increase in registered cases of rape against SC women from 2015
In 2019, there were 3,486 cases of rape against SC women including girls, and 3,375 cases of assault, each constituting around 7-8% of total crimes against Scheduled Castes (see graph). Cases of rape and assault on SC women have increased by 37% and 20%, respectively, since 2015.
Upto 87% of cases of assault against SC women were reported by adult victims. Of these, ‘assault with the intent to outrage modesty’ (Section 354, IPC) made for the biggest proportion (60%), followed by sexual harassment (Section 354A, IPC) at nearly 23% of cases. In 32% of rape cases, the victim was a minor.
Fewer than 10% of atrocities cases found false
Of the total registered cases in 2019 (including those carried over from previous years), the police filed a charge sheet in 78.5% cases of crimes against Scheduled Castes, and 81.7% cases of crimes against the Scheduled Tribes. This is significantly higher than the rate in total cognisable offences under the IPC, which was at 67.2%. A charge sheet is a police report filed on completion of investigation putting forward evidence for prosecution. In the remaining cases--21.5% of crimes against SC and 18.3% in crimes against ST--the police was yet to complete investigation, the data show.
Among the states, Jharkhand and Rajasthan had the lowest charge-sheet rate for crimes against SC, at 34.1% and 49%, respectively. States with close to a 100% rate included Madhya Pradesh (99.3%), Chhattisgarh (98.7%), Odisha (97.7%) and Gujarat (96.9%). For crimes against STs, seven states had 100% rate including Assam, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Sikkim, Tripura and Uttarakhand. States with low rates include Goa (50%), Rajasthan (49.5%), and West Bengal (55.6%) as well as the Union Territory of Dadra and Nagar Haveli (50%).
However, for cases registered only under the Atrocities Act, the charge-sheet rate was much lower at 68.5% as compared to other cases of crimes against the Scheduled Castes. Among the four specific offences reported under the Atrocities Act, the rate was the lowest for ‘forcing to leave place of residence/social boycott’ (14%) followed by dispossessing of land belonging to SC/ST (34%), preventing usage of public places (60%) and intentionally insulting with intent to humiliate (72%).
The police closed fewer than 10% of the registered cases under the Atrocities Act as false cases, data show. On completing an investigation, the police can close the case citing various reasons, one being that the allegations were found to be “false”, in what is known as the Final Report. Of 62,195 cases of crimes against SC for investigation in 2019, the police ended 5,482 cases as false (8.81%) and 937 of 10,878 cases in crimes against Scheduled Tribes (8.61%). These data therefore contradict the widely prevalent view including within the police that cases under the Atrocities Act are largely false or motivated. The police in fact filed a charge sheet in 78.5% of cases of crime against SCs, a process that indicates the police found sufficient evidence to proceed with prosecution.
Insufficient data on offences against SC, STs
Few data are available on offences defined under Section 3 of the Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989 (Atrocities Act), which penalises a range of caste- and tribal identity-based discriminatory actions such as garlanding with footwear, parading naked, forcing a member of SC/ST to do manual scavenging, prohibiting members from using common burial grounds or abusing a member by caste name in any public place, for example.
Following a 2015 amendment to the Atrocities Act, Section 3 was further expanded to include over 30 offences. Yet, Crime in India reports data on just four offences: intentionally insult or intimidate with intent to humiliate; occupy/dispose of land belonging to SC/ST; prevent, deny or obstruct use of public place/passage; and force to leave place of residence/social boycott. All other offences under the Atrocities Act are clubbed as “Others”.
Moreover, cases under the Atrocities Act alone constitute just 8.9% of the total crime against Scheduled Castes and 5.3% of crime against the Scheduled Tribes (table below). Of the total registered crimes against SCs in 2019, 91% of the cases are registered with offences from the Atrocities Act read with IPC offences.
This trend is true for most states with the exception of Himachal Pradesh where cases under the Atrocities Act alone constitutes 82%, and Jharkhand where they constitute 49.9% of the total crime against SCs. For crimes against the Scheduled Tribes, Jharkhand is the only state where nearly 60% of the total registered crimes are under the Atrocities Act alone.
Without disaggregated data of atrocities under Section 3, there is no measure of the daily, lived experiences of discrimination that have been penalised under law. In the Hathras incident, for instance, the family of the victim belonging to the Valmiki community has shared how the Thakurs in their village still practice discrimination by telling them not to walk from a certain side of the road, or by throwing drain water in their homes. Such practices clearly fall within the definition of an atrocity under Section 3 and warrant legal action.
No data on accountability provisions
Another crucial data set that remains missing is of complaints received and registered of willful neglect of duty by public servants. Section 4 of the Atrocities Act defines the duties of public servants to include immediate registering of a First Information Report under the appropriate sections of the Act when an atrocity is reported, recording statements of victims or witnesses, and filing charge sheet within 60 days and explaining any delay in writing.
For willful neglect of such duties, a public servant can be sent to prison for up to one year. Despite research documenting frequent instances of police delaying and/or refusing to register FIR at the first instance when an atrocity is reported, there are no data available of complaints received, and action taken, in such cases.
Over 90% cases pending trial
Trial for these categories of offences extends for longer than for an average IPC case. At the end of 2019, trial was completed in only 7.6% cases of crimes against women, 6.1% cases of crimes against Scheduled Castes and 8.4% cases of crimes against Scheduled Tribes cases, as against 9.7% for IPC cognisable offences (Table 18A.1).
While trials are taking longer, the rate of conviction (trial ending with perpetrators of crime being identified, and proved guilty based on evidence produced by the police) in these crime categories is much lower than for IPC offences. Against a conviction rate of 50.4% for IPC offences, crimes against women had a rate of 23.7%, crimes against SC 32.1% and crimes against ST 26.4%. This is despite the rate of charge sheet being much higher in these crimes than for an IPC offence.
|Trial Completed In Fewer Than 10% Cases. 60% Or More Led To Acquittal|
|Crimes against Women||Crimes against SC||Crimes against ST|
|Total||in %||Total||in %||Total||in %|
|Cases for trial||1714944||204191||33583|
|Cases disposed without trial||20216||1.18||245||0.12||72||0.21|
|Cases in which trial completed||130927||7.63||12498||6.12||2814||8.38|
|a. Cases convicted||31007||23.68||4007||32.06||742||26.37|
|b. Cases discharged||9281||7.09||1061||8.49||297||10.55|
|c. Cases acquitted||90639||69.23||7430||59.45||1775||63.08|
|Cases pending trial||1563801||91.19||191448||93.76||30697||91.41|
For crimes against SCs, states with the highest conviction rate were Uttarakhand (68%), Uttar Pradesh (66%) and Rajasthan (51%). None of the states that have nearly a 100% charge sheeting rate (Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Gujarat and Chhattisgarh) also have high conviction rates.
On crimes against women, UP and Uttarakhand along with four Northeast states (Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland and Sikkim) have a conviction rate above 50%.
For crimes against STs, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim each have 100% conviction rate.
(Srivastava works for the police reforms programme at the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and can be reached at email@example.com. Devika Prasad, head, police reforms programme at CHRI, contributed to this article.)