As crime conviction rate plunges, govt asks DGP to submit a report
The conviction rate in Maharashtra has dropped from 58.29% in 2020 to 41.36% in the first half of 2023. The state government is seeking a report on the situation and plans to tweak rules to hold public prosecutors and investigating officers accountable. The drop in conviction rate has prompted the home department to make changes in policies related to crime investigation and court battles. Some districts, particularly those with political interference and backward areas, have consistently low conviction rates. Witnesses turning hostile and ineffective public prosecutors are cited as major factors affecting the conviction rate.
MUMBAI: After recording a high of 58.29 percent in 2020, the conviction rate in Maharashtra has seen a shocking drop in the last two years. From 54.36 percent in 2021, the rate plunged to 46.36 percent in 2022 and then to 41.36 percent in the first six months of 2023. The state government has taken the fall very seriously and has sought a report from the state director-general of police (DGP). Once the report is submitted, the home department is expected to tweak rules to fix responsibility on public prosecutors (PPs) and investigating officers.
Devendra Fadnavis, after taking over as chief minister and home minister in 2014, took some major steps in 2015 to improve the conviction rate. The home department issued as many as 14 government resolutions to bring about changes in the policies related to crime investigation and court battles. To avoid delays in the appointment of PPs, powers of appointment were delegated to district-level heads of police and officers from the directorate of prosecution. New rules were framed by the home department for PPs’ appointments and responsibilities, and their jobs were linked to how they performed in court.
The home department’s decisions were taken against the backdrop of the drastic fall in the conviction rate. According to information provided by the state CID to Hindustan Times under a Right To Information application, the crime rate was 13.3 percent in 2013 and 19.32 percent in 2014. It ranged between 32.45 percent and 32.99 percent between 2015 and 2017 before improving significantly in 2018 at 41.41 percent. In 2019, it was 48.95 percent.
Some districts have fared consistently poorly in the conviction rate. For instance, in 2021, when the overall state conviction rate was 54.23 percent, Beed and Parbhani in central Maharashtra were below 25 percent, while eight districts in Vidarbha and central Maharashtra ranged between 25 and 35 percent. Mumbai city reported 48.21 percent, while in Thane city it was 54.31 percent.
“Districts and cities with high political interference and those that are extremely backward report a low conviction rate,” said an official from the home department.
Anup Kumar Singh, principal secretary, home department, told HT that the drop in the conviction rate was discussed in a crime conference held last month. “The home minister has taken it seriously,” he said. “The director-general of police (DGP) has been asked to submit a report on the steps needed to improve it. Once the report is submitted, we will make necessary changes in our policy. Like the 14 government resolutions we issued in 2015, making key changes in the policy to improve the conviction rate, we will further tweak the policy again.”
An official from the DGP’s office said that apart from police investigation, there were two other major factors that hit the conviction rate. “In many cases, witnesses turn hostile, resulting in defeat in court,” he said. “Secondly, the public prosecutors appointed to represent the police and the government fail to fight the case effectively. In such cases, even the effective investigation by police becomes futile.”
The officer said that the police department sensitised investigating officers by holding workshops and training sessions. “In many cases, the appointment of public prosecutors is influenced by political interference,” he said. “It compromises the competence and integrity of the prosecutors representing the government. Such appointees are not able to fight cases effectively, resulting in the acquittal of the accused. In some cases, the prosecutors come under pressure or join hands with the accused. The policy related to their appointment and responsibility needs to be further amended.”