Gaps galore in crime bureau data

Considering the ever-changing nature of crimes and the category of criminals in the country, data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) still has a long way to go to provide the actual scenario prevalent in the country.

Shwetank Shekhar Dubey/ Zee Research Group

Considering the ever-changing nature of crimes and the category of criminals in the country, data provided by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) still has a long way to go to provide the actual scenario prevalent in the country. Crime among live-in relations, sexual harassment, honour killings, marital rape, cyber crime, cyber bullying, crime among same-sex partners, sodomy of men, etc, are among those crime that have risen by leaps and bounds in the recent past, but there is no data to authenticate their numbers.

NCRB has been finally been able to go for “course correction” from the usual template form after a nod from the Home Ministry so that new categories of crime can be incorporated in the data collation process, however, it will take another year to reach the goal.

Taking to Zee Research Group, Director General of NCRB, RR Verma said in 2013 several factors were considered and states have been suggested new parameters through which they can report the crime numbers. “Data collection is an evolving process. We took into consideration suggestion from various quarters and decided on the course correction. It is not possible for us to tell states to give us data on new parameters in the middle of the year, so any changes that will be reflected will be in the next Crime in India report,” Verma said.

Verma said that he could not disclose which new categories are going to be added in the next report as they are still under consideration of the central government. “Once it is finalised, states would be given the new chapters under which they would have to send us data,” Verma said.

Director of Centre for Social Research, Ranjana Kumari, said that NCRB takes a macro picture of crimes and avoids specifics, which is a lacuna on the agency’s part. “Indian society is going through a major transition but NCRB is still preparing reports from a superficial view. The format needs to be updated,” Kumari said.

When asked for the delay in publishing data, Verma blamed the states in providing figures. He also said that 2014 being an election year ended in officials being deployed on poll duty, thereby giving them lesser time to compile data. “We cannot say that the Crime in India 2013 report was delayed from our end. States delay in giving us data and that adds to our effort in collating it. Also, nearly three months went in preparations for the general elections but we still managed to take it out within the stipulated time,” he said.

Collection of data under new sub-heads came in a knee-jerk reaction to the Supreme Court decriminalizing gay sex in December 2013. NCRB announced that it would begin collating data related to offences recorded under Section 377 (unnatural sex) of the IPC. After mid-December, NCRB began preparing a new format to be sent to states to collation of data in this regard.

“NCRB will begin tabulating data of offences registered under Section 377 next year. The required tabulating sheets to provide data to NCRB will soon be shared with state governments,” said an NCRB official.

The agency, which is the repository of all crime data in the country, has never collected any data on Section 377 since Independence.

Until now the agency had only 30 categories of crime, which is expected to increase to around 70. Other crimes that were decided to be tabulated separately include gang-rape, murder of victim after rape and detailed sub-divisions under the new law on sexual harassment.

NCRB has classified cyber crime into 15 categories under the IT Act and IPC, however, considering the nature of offences are being undertaken in newer and ‘innovative’ manners, the need to add more categories has arisen. No sub-heads have been created for cyber terrorism, pornography and child pornography which are being reported frequently.

Additionally, the extent of numerous other crimes that were recognised by the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013, like gang-rapes, acid attacks, stalking, etc, will be known only from the next year onwards. The exact extent of “honour” crimes, which are still not recognised by law, still remain unknown.

A new list of offences to be included was approved by the Home Ministry in 2008, but software for such data collection was not ready. According to NCRB’s own admissions, implementation of the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS), a project under the National e-governance plan of the government, is yet to be done. The then Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) had approved the CCTNS Project in July 2009 and allocated Rs 2,000 crore for it.

Verma said that the software development agency (Wipro), the CCTNS team of NCRB and the Central Project Management Team are still working towards delivering the project. “The project has been delayed from Wipro’s end. Several meetings have been conducted with officers and personnel to sort out implementation issues at state and union territory levels and to incorporate all important functionalities,” Verma said.

Another factor that needs to be considered by NCRB is that most criminal incidents often involve more than one crime and FIRs often invoke multiple IPC sections. Figures provided by NCRB are segregated into fixed templates of rape, murder, kidnapping, etc, because only the most serious charge mentioned in a FIR is taken into account. Due to this, an incident of rape and murder is recorded as murder, because murder is a more serious offence in law than rape. As a result, heinous rapes would also be classified under murder thereby not giving the real nature of crimes.

Lawyer Anant Asthana pointed out that NCRB data was inaccurate for understanding juvenile crime, primarily because it uses ‘registration of FIRs’ as a source for information. If registration of an FIR is taken as conclusive proof of crime then it is bound to give a wrong picture. An FIR records that a crime has happened and not all accused persons are convicted. If acquitted persons are not taken into account, figures get inflated.

(With inputs from Ritu Raj)

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