In the past year, reported rape cases in the city have gone up by 57 per cent in comparison to 2011-2012, says a recently released report by Praja Foundation. While cops and experts pin this rise down to higher number of FIRs being registered, the figures indicate that crimes against women are, and perhaps have always been, pervasive in the city.
Rape cases went up from 187 in 2011-12 to 294 in 2012-13 – a 57 per cent rise; 554 molestation cases were reported in the city in 2011-2012, with the figure going up to 793 in 2012-2013. Murder cases went up by two per cent in the same duration.
Strange as this may sound, this could actually be a sign of a change in the times. “We have been working in a very proactive manner and have been carrying out several Mahilla Melavas and various programmes for women to come forward and register offences with the police, and I think the increase that we have been seeing in rape and molestation cases is due to better recording and reporting of crime. Moreover, our detection record has also gone up,” said Sadanand Date, joint commissioner of police, (law and order).
Managing trustee of the Praja Foundation Nitai Mehta corroborated this claim, saying: “The number of rape cases rose due to the fact that lots of cases were actually registered by the police this year. Earlier, the police used to avoid registering cases, but now, afraid that the victims will approach their seniors and complain against them, they have been registering the cases this year, and this has led to an increase in the number of cases.” He added, “In most of the rape and molestation cases, the accused was known to the victim.”
In South Mumbai, reported rape cases have almost doubled, shooting up from 37 in 2011-2012 to 67 in 2012-2013. Cops, however, claim that women in the city are still ill at ease about coming forward with their complaints. “The Mumbai police had tried various things, like forming a special women’s crime branch, but hardly any complaints have been lodged with it and the lady officers are seen chatting throughout the day. The complaint boxes that are installed so that women can drop complaints without identifying themselves are missing now,” said a senior police officer from the Mumbai police.
The report also points to a grinding staff shortage in the Mumbai police force. Of the sanctioned staff strength of 41,398 personnel in the force, only 35,761 policemen are working in the city, most of whom are too busy tackling law and order problems to make any concerted effort in investigating pending cases, which in turn has resulted in a low conviction rate.
The conviction rate has dipped from a poor 10 per cent in 2011 to a beggarly seven per cent in 2012. “The major reason for the conviction rate going down is lack of investigating officers holding ranks of assistant police inspector and police sub inspector. Apart from this, hostile witnesses, delay in hearings, lack of public prosecutors, adds to the low conviction rate,” said Mehta. Of the sanctioned 1,002 posts for assistant police inspectors, only 732 are filled. Of the sanctioned 3,125 posts for police sub inspectors, only 1,319 are occupied. There is a shortage of approximately 14 per cent in the force.
In 2012, around 1,94,588 cases were tried, of which trial was completed in only 17,258 cases and conviction in a yet smaller number of 3,095 cases. The Mumbai police control room, which is the nerve centre of police activity in the city, is also facing a grinding staff shortage – out of the 267 sanctioned posts, only 127 are occupied.
“The police are now afraid that if we don’t register an offence, the complainant might either approach the media or senior officers. Later, the senior police officers might take action against the police officer who did not take the FIR, so they have now started treating all cases as priority and registering FIRs,” said Y P Singh, former IPS and lawyer.