64% IPC Cases Pending for Investigation in Mumbai at the End of 2019: Praja Foundation
Mumbai police has been at the forefront of maintaining law and order in the metro city, not just during the pandemic and the ensuing lock-down but also before that. However, due to manpower shortage, there were as many as 64% cases filed under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) were pending as on December 2019, says a report released by Praja Foundation.
The report titled "State of Policing and Law & Order in Mumbai" highlights the need for improvements in various aspects such as human resources, monitoring and accountability, sensitisation and improvements in police-citizen relations.
It points out that while the Mumbai police has performed many more functions during the pandemic, it has been working under severe pressure and has been overburdened well before the pandemic.
“In 2019-20 for example, there was an 18% shortage of police personnel in Mumbai compared to sanctioned posts. This in turn has an impact on the existing workforce, including extended work hours and working conditions that affect the overall health of police, reducing their ability to perform their duties effectively”, said Nitai Mehta, founder and managing trustee of Praja Foundation.
According to the report, shortage of police personnel and quality of working and living conditions of police, in turn, affects the overall performance such as in the investigation of cases.
Milind Mhaske, director of Praja Foundation, says, “Over the years, a large number of police persons have succumbed to lifestyle related diseases directly linked to exposure in work and working conditions- for example from April 2017 to October 2020, the highest cause of death of police personnel was heart attacks (113 deaths). About 16 deaths by suicide were also reported in the same period. In terms of living conditions as well, we have been unable to provide adequate housing for the police force- as on March 2020, only 38% of the police force was allotted police housing.”
According to Mr Mehta, vacancy in sanctioned posts also has a direct impact on performance in case of the judiciary, where there was a 28% shortage in public prosecutors and 14% shortage of sessions court judges. He says, “In 2019, there were about 2.50 lakh cases to be tried in courts for IPC in Mumbai in 2019 out of which judgement was given in just 6% of the cases.”
“A lifecycle study conducted for Sessions court cases from 2013 to 2017, shows that it took, on an average, 11.1 months from first information report (FIR) to charge sheet, while the same should be done within 90 days. Further, it took, on an average, 2.4 years from first hearing to judgement,” Mr Mhaske adds.
As per the report, in Mumbai, the highest time taken to pass judgements from FIR (first information reports) was in cases of dacoity at 5.8 years. In spite of more time taken for investigation and trial, this has not led to improved conviction rates – only 24% of cases from 2013 to 2017 were convicted in Mumbai’s sessions court.
It says, “One of the ways adopted to reduce high pendency of cases was passing of special laws with clear provisions for timely completion of cases through special courts- however these too have not been successful. One such example is the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 which, recognising the need for controlling and providing speedy justice in the case of sexual crimes against children, provided for these cases to be completed within one year from the date of cognisance while being tried in a special POCSO court.”
“However, in 2019, while 1,319 cases of POCSO were registered, just 448 cases were tried in courts, of which only half (222) were tried in the special POCSO court. Moreover, only 20% of these judgements in POCSO courts were pronounced within one year (as required by the Act),” Mr Mehta says.
To improve the policing and judicial system, Praja Foundation says, it is first important to fill vacant posts and look at reforms that reduce the burden on the existing personnel and ensure better working conditions for them so that they can perform their duties effectively. This will in turn also lead to improved quality of investigation and timely justice.
It says, “A second bigger, and more challenging aspect, is to sensitize and train the people operating within the system. What any victim first needs, is an unbiased, co-operative and sensitive police and judiciary. Also like any other system or governance structure, monitoring is key to ensuring accountability in the system. In line with this, implementation of reforms such as the Police Complaints Authority at the divisional level to take complaints against the police (rank of Senior Police Inspector and below) needs to be done and the body needs to be given considerable and independent authority to make decisions.”
“We need people to be partners in policing through a police-public relationship of trust and collaboration, to not just effectively report and investigate crimes or maintain law and order, but to address and tackle the inherent and underlying causes of crime”, Mr Mehta from Praja Fondation concludes.