Do not just blame India’s courts, it’s the police that can not solve criminal cases.
At present, or 37 percent of judge-strength that is sanctioned, 399 posts, are empty’.
However, by overlooking police the letter believes just a part of the problem. Having the police take care of the huge stockpile of cases pending investigation in India would go a long way in reducing the backlog of criminal cases.
Traditionally, for expediting police investigations, the solution has been to fill vacancies to meet with the police strength. However, the point is missed by this approach because the number itself may be inadequate.
To understand these gaps in police cadres, we have a look at the relationship between case pendency rates and the extent to which nations have filled their sanctioned police strength. We looked at states with the greatest number of cases piling up for evaluation. These 10 states account for more than two-thirds of all cases in India.
Table 1 shows that Assam and Maharashtra, despite having 80 per cent or more of their authorities posts filled, are still reporting 63 per cent and 41 per cent case pendency. Uttar Pradesh, despite having only 67 percent of its police force filled, reports 19 percent pendency, whereas Tamil Nadu, with nearly the exact same proportion of sanctioned force filled, has double the pendency rate (39 percent ). Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, with almost 80 percent of police sanctioned strength stuffed, have managed to bring down case pendency to 12 per cent and 6 per cent.
In short, there’s absolutely no correlation between these two steps; ideally, there should be a consistent inverse relationship between the ratio of sanctioned police force stuffed and the instance pendency rate.
Three vital considerations
The imbalance between case pendency and the authorities strength has to be known through these three lenses.
The procedure for estimating the police force number that is sanctioned is unrealistic.
The system is also designed with the anticipation that personnel are’on duty’ 24 hours a day, seven days a week – this is obviously unreasonable. This irrational demand means they’re overworked and, thus, ineffective. A 2014 study by the government-run Bureau of Police Research and Development recommended a 50 per cent increase in the current sanctioned police station strength, i.e., 3,37,500 personnel. This recommendation takes into consideration eight-hour shifts, i.e., 16 hours less than current expectations. Unsurprisingly, the study found that 90 percent of police station staff work for over eight hours a day.
While states certainly need to increase their police forces, reassessing sanctioned police force numbers may be needed in states like Maharashtra and Assam, which had both large police forces and higher pendency prices.
Secondly, according to a 2012 report by the Law Commission of India, one of the chief reasons for authorities pendency is the poor quality of investigation. This will not be solved by adding more personnel. Rather, their roles need to be separated and streamlined.
Police are expected to perform myriad functions such as evaluation, crime prevention, maintenance of law and order, enforcement of acts, emergency and election-related duties. From investigative duties, the Supreme Court urged the separation of order and law in Prakash Singh vs Union of India. It hasn’t been implemented across India. This lack of separation affects the effectiveness of investigation proceedings.
Making the situation worse is access to technologies and lack of required infrastructure. It’s worth noting that in 2017, 21 percent of criminal cases were closed with no investigation. Close to three-fourths of those closed were due to insufficient or untraceable evidence, regardless of the cases being legitimate, according to NCRB data.
Third, based on our fieldwork and surveys, we found that enhancing investigative training isn’t only required but even desired by newly recruited police officers.Police personnel feel that there is insufficient emphasis on the practical aspects of police work throughout their training.
A step in the right direction is the proposed establishment of a National Police University, which was part of the winter session agenda of Parliament. The aim is to train aspiring police officers amongst others, in policing, security, cybercrime, criminology and forensic sciences that are internal. This proposal represents a push towards improving the quality of police training.
Addressing structural deficiencies
1 caveat in all this is that the nature of crime influences the length and effort. However, the latest report on the 2017 crime figures, published after a two-year lag, by the National Crime Records Bureau, does not include case pendency rates organised into crime and length classes for each state, thereby restricting a critical analysis of this circumstance. Addressing these structural deficiencies would go a long way in enhancing the situation that is pendency.
Even a cursory look at ground-level realities demonstrates that merely reducing the gap between actual police numbers and the amount of employees sanctioned by the state isn’t an adequate solution. Data on reasons for pendency by offense and by state would help address it.
Along with better information, there needs to be a renewed focus on practical approaches to police training. This would ultimately lead to criminal justice system that is effective and a more informed and effective police force.
Priya Vedavalli is an associate and Tvesha Sippy is a senior analyst in IDFC Institute. Views are personal.