Patna: Nearly 60,000 criminals, including politicians and lawmakers, have been convicted and punished in Bihar - a state that had become a byword for lawlessness - in the last five years and three months, thanks to fast track trials, a senior police official has said.
The high rate of convictions due to the fast track courts that have been functioning since January 2006 has led to a decline in Bihar`s crime rate, according to Additional Director General (Police headquarters) Rajyavardhan Sharma.
For the first time in the state, over a dozen MPs and state legislators have been convicted and punished, Sharma said.
According to a report compiled by police, a total of 59,561 people have been convicted in the state between January 2006 and March 2011 - higher than any comparable period for decades.
Of those convicted, 133 were sentenced to death while 1,024 got life terms and 2,785 were sentenced to more than 10 years in jail.
The high rate of convictions was made possible by speedy trial of the cases, Sharma said. "In the past, the rate of conviction was very low - only about 3,000-8,000 in a decade. However, the speedy trials conducted in almost all pending criminal cases by different courts, including fast track courts and special courts, made a huge difference," Sharma told a news agency.
When Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) became Chief Minister Nov 24, 2005, for the first time, he promised to make the state crime-free within three months. But later he admitted it was not possible and set up the special courts to dispense justice fast.
Sharma said the conviction of so many criminals in such a short span of time is a big achievement and a model for other states to follow.
The speedy trial of criminals has also been lauded by the ordinary people of Bihar, said the official.
Police officials here claim that Bihar has surpassed other states in awarding the death sentence to the maximum number of people in a little over five years.
The Chief Minister has time and again told the people that criminals now fear disturbing law and order in the state because of his "political determination to prosecute them through speedy trials".
He said the high rate of convictions has instilled a sense of fear in the minds of criminals and anti-social elements.
There has been a sharp decline in the number of abductions and other crimes, including murder, robbery, bank dacoity and road holdups, according to the police.
Bihar`s known politician convicts include former parliamentarians Pappu Yadav and Mohammad Shahabuddin of the RJD, Surajbhan Singh of the Lok Janshakti Party, Anand Mohan of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and his wife Lovely Anand.
Anand Mohan was sentenced to death by a local court and his wife given life sentence over the murder of the then Gopalganj district magistrate, G Krishnaiah, in 1994.
JD-U legislators Narendra Kumar alias Sunil Pandey and Munna Shukla are also among convicts.
Pappu Yadav was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Ajit Sarkar. Shahabuddin, who is lodged in Siwan Jail, was convicted in seven criminal cases, with a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.
Sunil Pandey was sentenced to life imprisonment for the kidnapping of a noted neuro-surgeon in Patna while Munna Shukla was sentenced to a life term for the murder of Krishnaiah.
However, the many convictions have added to the overcrowding in Bihar jails where, for the first time, convicts outnumber undertrials. There are nearly 40,000 prisoners lodged in 54 jails, which together are supposed to hold a maximum of 30,000 prisoners.