Data shows UP’s rape, molestation figures falling, but independent study says police refusal to register FIRs is the reason
Official data would suggest a scenario which is rather implausible that crimes of rape and molestation reduced sharply in Uttar Pradesh in the same period that saw a massive increase in incidents of cruelty against married women by husbands or their relatives.
Rates of reported sexual offences against women have declined sharply in Uttar Pradesh under the Yogi Adityanath-led government, an analysis of crime data reveals. However, these figures do not necessarily reflect a better state of law and order, particularly when seen in the context of widespread allegations about the police refusing to file FIRs.
In the wake of nationwide outrage over the Hathras gangrape case, the Union home ministry last month issued an advisory stating that an FIR must be registered in case of a cognisable offence under the CrPC, failing which action should be taken against the erring officials. It is worth recalling that much of the public anger over the Hathras case was over the alleged delay in registering a case of rape.
Such difficulties in registering sexual offences do not constitute an aberration, as an analysis of data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) suggests. From 2014 to 2019, total crimes against women rose from 38,467 to 59,853 — an increase of 55.5 percent. However, this increase was, to a large extent, driven by a rise in offences registered under 498A of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) — which deals with cruelty by husband or relatives of a husband. Crimes under 498A of the IPC rose from 10,471 in 2014 to 18,304 in 2019 — an increase of 74.8 percent.
On the other hand, registered rape cases (under Section 376 of the IPC) actually fell from 3,467 in 2014 to 3,065 in 2019 -- a decrease of 11.6 percent. There is a marked decrease in reported cases of rape since 2017, which was when the Yogi Adityanath-led government came to power in the state. From 2017 to 2019, rape cases reduced from 4,246 to 3,065 -- a reduction of 27.8 percent.
It is a similar story for molestation cases (also referred to as ‘outraging modesty of a woman’) under Section 354 of the IPC. From 2014 to 2016, molestation cases increased from 8,605 to 11,335—a rise of 31.7 percent. However, from 2017 to 2019, molestation cases reduced from 12,607 to 11,988 in 2019 -- a reduction of 4.9 percent. It is also important to remember that the total population of women in Uttar Pradesh would have increased during this period.
Thus, the official data would suggest a scenario which is rather implausible -- that crimes of rape and molestation reduced sharply in the same period that saw a massive increase in incidents of cruelty against married women by husbands or their relatives.
However, a senior officer with the Uttar Pradesh Police, speaking on the condition of anonymity, asserted, “Any dip in reported crimes can only be explained by a reduction in actual crimes, and not due to a refusal to register crimes. The instructions from the government are very clear—that FIRs should be registered in all cases. The avenues to register complaints have also increased in recent years — such as Twitter handles and the UPCOP app.”
While it would be difficult to arrive at a statistical estimate of refusal by the police to register sexual offences, a recent study by NGO Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) offers some insights in this regard. The organisation analysed in detail 14 rape and gangrape cases in which the police delayed or failed to register cases. Out of the 14 cases, FIRs were registered in 11 cases with the time taken by the police in doing so ranging from two days to 228 days. In all of these cases, FIRs were registered only after either the complaints were escalated to a senior officer, or after a court order.
The CHRI report detailed several alleged violations of law by the police -- including male officers recording the statements of the women, officers discriminating on the basis of caste, and putting pressure on complainants to settle or compromise with the accused. In two cases, police officers allegedly advised the survivors to marry the perpetrators. In one case, the police allegedly watered down charges from rape to molestation, while in another case, the police are said to have watered down charges from gang-rape to rape.
In three out of 14 cases, no FIR was registered despite the complaints of survivors. In six cases, FIRs were registered after the complaints were escalated to senior officers, while in five cases, FIRs were registered after orders of the relevant chief judicial magistrate. In 12 cases, complaints of the women survivors were recorded by male police officers—in contravention to the law.
Caste prejudices also are seen to impede access to justice for marginalised communities. The report quoted a rape survivor from Jaunpur as saying, “My FIR couldn’t get registered because they are from a dominant caste. The police officers at the police station and SP rank were of the same caste as that of the alleged accused.”
Speaking to Firstpost, Devika Prasad, one of the authors of the report, said, “In six out of 14 cases, the survivors belonged to Scheduled Castes; and a common sentiment shared by them was that their caste seemed to be working against them. It appeared that when there was an upper caste accused and upper caste police officer, there was an automatic closing of ranks.”
On the whole, while the Uttar Pradesh administration has of late cited lower rates of reported crimes to claim improvement on the law and order front, existing data leaves many questions unanswered.
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