Police Reforms – SC directives, NPC, other committees reports

[op-ed snap] What we talk about when we talk about crime


Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies & interventions for development in various sectors & issues arising out of their design & implementation

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Not much

Mains level: NCRB data reporting and changes required in it for better outcomes


Crime data reporting 

  1. Intelligent administration of the criminal justice system (CJS) thrives on how crime data is reported, analysed and disaggregated
  2. Not merely CJS but safety and development of the entire social order depends on the state of criminal records
  3. But there is a recent concern with the “politicisation” of data
  4. Regimes in power may interfere with established official data-gathering channels and even manipulate these

Changes proposed by NCRB in crime data collection

  1. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has put forward proposals to improve from 2019 onwards the collection and classification of criminal data on several dimensions
  2. These include crimes against media persons, RTI and social activists, whistle-blowers and witnesses, senior citizens, persons belonging to Northeast states and by saints, khap panchayats, servants, guards, proclaimed offenders, parolees, cadres of political parties, illegal immigrants and organised groups
  3. Cybercrimes feature conspicuously among additional new reporting categories
  4. There will also be data related to complaints against police personnel, human rights violations by police, custodial deaths and escape from police custody

Filing of crimes essential

  1. Criminologists tell us that the “dark figure of crime” looms large over a society where criminal records are ill-kept
  2. If the FIRs are not filed despite the Supreme Court’s insistence that such filing is mandatory, the dark figure expands
  3. It becomes even sinister as in the case of lynching, social boycott, or stripping and parading

Law vs Economic wisdom

  1. Law reform wisdom says that the certainty of punishment matters more than severity and so do state investment on policing and associated administrative costs
  2. The economic approach to crime and punishment says that severity is better than certainty (or high probability) because it saves on these costs
  3. In the long run, more policing, by signalling a high probability of arrest, should bring down crime and associated social costs
  4. The “broken windows theory” has empirically maintained that in place of large social narratives of crime causation (such as impoverishment, patriarchy), policing will be effective when concentrated on a chain of events where small incidents of a breakdown in civic order were effectively prosecuted and punished
  5. The New York police in the 1990s contributed to crime reduction by taking in offenders for the pettiest of crimes

Making police more efficient

  1. To examine the deterrence effect of police visibility in marginalised neighbourhoods in India, data enrichment is required
  2. The NCRB provides state-level data for police density (by area and population)
  3. But this is neither disaggregated by district nor by the nature of duty (patrolling, clerical) to correctly gauge “visibility”
  4. Thus, it is not useful for the efficient allocation of police by a state among its districts

Further disaggregation of data

  1. The data for crimes against women or SC/STs is only disaggregated by age and sex but it should extend to religion and educational background as well
  2. This is currently done for convicts, it is not very useful without information about the crimes they have committed
  3. One may also consider data for the economic background or nature of the regular job of both offenders and victims
  4. Data should also be disaggregated according to gang or lone-wolf crime
  5. Data concerning the socioeconomic characteristics of repeat offenders or “hardened criminals” or about “crime schooling” in prisons leading to “career criminalisation”, should be provided
  6. In this regard, longitudinal surveys, conducted for most societies of the world, will be useful
  7. These capture time-varying attributes of the same offenders, like relationship with family, beliefs about their future, substance use and risk perception
  8. Disaggregation should reflect the extent to which a cost-benefit approach rather than impulse or the influence of drugs or alcohol (as is the case with juveniles but not only there) drives crime, which will have crucial policy implications

Way Forward

  1. Social conditions and structures shape individuals, which show that those designated as criminals are not born but made so by society
  2. An accurate record of perpetrators and victims concerning the nature of crime and punishment is rightly recognised as an attribute of a civilised state
  3. Better crime control statistics will not only be a tool for effecient policing but also an instrument of efficacious social policy and constitutional transformation of the Indian criminal justice system
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