Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, June 24:
With 89 acquittals out of every 100 cases, Odisha has turned out to be a safe haven, according to statistics arrived at by the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) under the Union Ministry of Home Affairs on the punishment ratio in different states.
Out of more than 10,000 cases of murder registered in the state in the last nine years, not one had ended in conviction.
Taking into consideration all cases registered during the period, the accused ave been pronounced innocent in a whopping 6.2 lakh cases.
“The law will take its course,” the Chief Minister, who has held the Home portfolio for 15 years now, is never tired of saying. But the law has obviously not taken its course, if theNCRB fugures are anything to go by.
The situation is such that things like theft at residence of a judge and policemen being beaten up by the public have become commonplace.
The other much discussed crimes in the last few years were the double murder at Bhubaneswar Prachi Division, killing of police ASI Ajit Bardhan, killing of Bhubaneswar student Pritam Priyadarshi Das and the murder of Jaina Rout, a bus owner of Cuttack.
These murders were hotly debated by the people of the state. The accused too were arrested by the police. But due to lack of evidence and witnesses, all 63 accused in the above mentioned four murder cases have been acquitted as innocents. The question arises: if these persons were innocent, why didn’t the police arrest the real culprits?
The situation in Odisha has reached a stage where there is no conviction in three out of every four cases of murder. Conviction rate in Odisha is ranked second lowest among 28 states.
While Odisha has earned a bad name for itself in the fields of education, health, infant and maternal mortality rates in the country, deteriorating law and order and low punishment ratio are the latest additions to the list. Thousands of families are deprived of justice because the police fails to do its duty.
While the national average on conviction rate stands at 40.2%, it stands at a mere 10.3% in Odisha. The North Eastern state of Mizoram has the highest conviction rate in the country with 83.5%.
Between 2005 to 2013, about 7, 37, 0120 cases were registered in different police stations of the state, out of which about 7, 00,000 were genuine.
In 80,000 out of the 6.2 lakh cases spread over a decade, the accused were acquitted as innocent by the courts. In 2009, the accused were convicted in only 13.9% cases.
While it dropped to 9.9% in 2010, it stood at 10.3% in 2011, 11% in 2012 and 10.3% in 2013. The conviction rate with regard to crime against women is also abysmally low.
In the above nine years, 13,845 cases of murders had taken place in the state. Conviction rate in murder cases is within 25% which is 13% lower than the national average. While the national conviction rate average with regard to murders in 2013 stood at 36.5%, it was 23.4% in Odisha.
While conviction rate in attempt to murder cases in 2013 was 12.1%, in cases of rape it was 16%, in kidnapping 8.6%, in dacoity 10.4%, in looting 8.7%, in theft 10.1%, in rioting 10.2%, in cheating 11.1%, in dowry related murders 12.9%, in indecent behaviour towards women 6.3% and in torture by husband and family members 7%. The conviction rate is much lower than the national average in all these spheres.
According to state police sources, 90,184 cases were registered at different police stations of the state in 2014, out of them 86,947 cases were found genuine. The worrying factor, however, is that police failed to identify the accused persons in 13,000 cases. Similarly, out of Rs 397.79 crore property stolen last year, only Rs 32.10 crore has been recovered.
Commenting on the deplorable conviction rate in Odisha, Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly and senior lawyer Narsingh Mishra said that the police was not doing its investigations properly in cases. The investigation by the police is frequqntly riddled with flaws and not convincing to judges, he said.
Mishra said adequate number of public prosecutors (PP) and additional public prosecutors (APPs) are not being appointed and the ones appointed are not having the necessary expertise and experience. Most of the appointments are made on political grounds, he alleged. Shortage of judges is another reason for the low conviction rate in the state, he added.
Moreover, delinquents are either influencing or threatening witnesses and security is not being provided to them. Minimal facilities are not available to witnesses in the courts; they have to wait on verandah of the courts. Therefore, witnesses are unwilling to come to the courts.
Most important of all, branches of law and order and investigations should be segregated. Investigations should be left to specially appointed police officers and they should be provided with modern-day techniques of investigations. Police officials appointed for investigations should not be diverted for other work. Despite clear-cut directives of the Supreme Court and Niti Aayog for segregation of law and order and investigations it’s not being implemented. Filling up of vacant posts in the police department and creation of permanent cadre for PP and APP and timely disposal of cases would help increase conviction rate, said Mishra.