It’s the end of November and India’s only official record of crimes reported last year is yet to be made public. The annual Crime in India report, the principal reference for crime statistics in the country since 1953, is prepared by the National Crime Records Bureau and usually released by the end of July.
Bureau officials said this four-month delay is unusual. This has not happened at least since in 2013, when the process of gathering data from police departments of all states and Union Territories was modified and streamlined. Since then, June 30 has been the deadline for finalising the annual report.
The officials clarified that the delay has nothing to do with the expected addition of data on lynchings and mob violence. The Bureau was asked to include details about mob violence earlier this year following allegations by the opposition parties, human right groups and the media that such crimes have increased since the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government took power in 2014.
But that information will not be in this report. “The data on lynching and mob violence is supposed to be part of an additional report, expected to be released later in 2018,” said an official in the Bureau’s statistics division.
There are no new chapters and tables in this year’s report, which, officials said, has been finalised and sent to the home ministry.
Why the delay?
The officials attributed the delay to administrative and procedural reasons. Two months ago, the Bureau’s office in Delhi was moved from RK Puram to Mehrauli and the shift “consumed time”, the officials said.
In addition, “some procedural issues concerning recording of crime by certain states have consumed good amount of time”, an official said. He explained that when data from states and Union Territories was received this year, the Bureau noticed a huge jump in figures under the “other crimes” category, which includes criminal incidents that do not fall under any of the specific categories listed in the annual report. As a consequence, the figures had to be reassessed.
For the most part, the spike in the figures turned out to be genuine, the official said. Most were incidents of mischief, which is not listed as a separate crime in the report unless it leads to arson, and of private defence.
But there were significant errors, too.
Some states were found to have included cases under the Motor Vehicles Act, mostly related to violation of traffic rules, in the “other crimes” category. Such cases, unless clubbed with a criminal offence, are not taken into consideration for the annual report. Hence, the official said, the data had to be thoroughly checked again and the wrong entries weeded out.
The report is now expected to be released later this week.
Mob violence data
Police across the country, meanwhile, are having a hard time recording cases of lynching and mob violence. “It is because the Indian Penal Code does not specifically define lynching and mob violence, which would mean that police departments would have to thoroughly analyse each and every FIR related to violent incidents reported in areas under their jurisdiction,” the official in the statistics division said.
The Bureau has over the years included crimes under the heads of “communal tension”, “caste violence” and “politicial riots” in the report, the official pointed out, “but police officials on the ground are unfamiliar with terms like lynching and mob violence, which have often surfaced in the English media in the past one year”.
A separate proforma for police departments to record incidents of lynching and mob violence was sent to states and Union Territories about three months ago, but there is no clarification on from how far back such data is to be collected. For now, the official said, police departments have been advised to start from the previous year.
The Bureau is also considering upgrading the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network System to help police departments gather data on lynching and mob violence.