In pandemic year, Covid violations push up crime rate by 28%: NCRB

The NCRB released its crime data for 2020, which lists a total of 66,01,285 cognizable crimes comprising 42,54,356 IPC violations and 23,46,929 crimes under Special and Local Laws.

In a year impacted massively by the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns, the overall crime in the country increased by 28% in 2020 over the non-pandemic year of 2019, the latest report on crime in India by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) shows. However, this increase has been largely attributed to crimes registered for Covid-19 violations, as the number of other crimes actually decreased in 2020 compared to 2019.

The NCRB released its crime data for 2020 on Wednesday. The report lists a total of 66,01,285 cognizable crimes comprising 42,54,356 Indian Penal Code (IPC) violations and 23,46,929 crimes under Special and Local Laws (SLL). It shows an increase of 14,45,127 (28%) in registration of cases over 2019 (51,56,158 cases). The crime rate (number of cases registered per one lakh population) has also increased from 385.5 in 2019 to 487.8 in 2020.

“Major increase was seen in cases registered under Section 188 of the IPC (Disobedience to Order Duly Promulgated by Public Servant) from 29,469 cases in 2019 to 6,12,179 cases in 2020 and under ‘Other IPC Crimes’ from 2,52,268 cases in 2019 to 10,62,399 cases in 2020,” the NCRB report says.

According to orders issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs during the pandemic, those violating the Centre’s guidelines on Covid-19 containment were supposed to be booked under Section 188 of the IPC and the Disaster Management Act.

The NCRB says even in the category of Special and Local Laws, more cases were registered under ‘Other State Local Act’. From 89,553 cases in 2019, they increased to 4,14,589 cases in 2020.

These together have resulted in 16,43,690 more cases registered in 2020 as compared to 2019. These cases are primarily those arising out of violations of Covid-19 norms. In effect, therefore, there is a decrease in registration of traditional crime by about two lakh cases,” the NCRB report says.

According to the report, due to the complete lockdown from March 25 to May 31 last year, cases registered under crimes against women, children and senior citizens, theft, burglary, robbery and dacoity have actually declined.

The year 2020, however, also saw protests by farmers over the contentious farm laws passed by the Union government. The NCRB data shows that despite lockdowns, cases of offences against public tranquillity witnessed an uptick by 12.4% in 2020 over 2019.

A total of 71,107 cases of offences against public tranquillity were registered under various sections of the IPC during 2020, out of which rioting (51,606 cases) accounted for 72.6% of total such cases. In 2019, the figure stood at 63,262 cases.

Notably, crimes against Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) registered an increase of almost 10% each in 2020 over 2019.

A total of 50,291 cases were registered for committing crime against Scheduled Castes (SCs), marking an increase of 9.4% over 2019 (45,961 cases). The crime rate registered showed an increase from 22.8 in 2019 to 25 in 2020.

A total of 8,272 cases were registered for committing crime against Scheduled Tribes (STs), showing an increase of 9.3% over 2019 (7,570 cases). The crime rate registered increased from 7.3 in 2019 to 7.9 in 2020.

Even as civil society debates crackdown on protests through anti-terror laws, the overall registration of cases under ‘Offences Against the State’ actually decreased in 2020. A total of 5,613 cases have been registered in 2020 as compared to 7,656 cases in the preceding year, showing a decrease of 26.7%. Out of 5,613 cases, 80.6% cases were registered under The Prevention of Damage to Public Property Act (4,524 Cases)—suggesting state crackdown on violent protests — followed by 796 (14.2%) cases under The Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

The decrease could be attributed to complete lockdown in conflict zones such as Kashmir and Chhattisgarh.

However, the year saw a massive increase in environment-related offences. During the year 2020, a total of 61,767 cases were registered under environment-related offences as compared to 34,676 cases in the year 2019, showing an increase of 78.1%.

A head count of crimes revealed that the number of cases registered under The Cigarette and Other Tobacco Products Act (COTPA) was the highest with 80.5% (49,710 cases), followed by Noise Pollution Acts (State/Central) with 11.8% (7,318 cases).

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