Serious offences dip in 2020, COVID violations pushes up crime rate

By Vignesh Radhakrishnan, Sumant Sen, Jasmin Nihalani
Policemen at the crime scene where the triple murder took place in Vasant Kunj's Kishangarh area. (Source: Special Arrangement)

Recorded crimes in India increased by 28% in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). This was primarily due to cases registered for flouting COVID-19-related lockdown norms. A sharp increase was recorded in cases reported under the “disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant, Section 188 of the IPC”, which lays down the penalties for violating the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, under which the lockdown-related norms were laid. However, violent and severe crimes such as rape, kidnapping and crimes against children declined. The police’s chargesheeting rate and courts’ conviction rate of cases also improved, possibly due to a drop in new cases.

A one-off year

The number of registered cognisable crimes increased from 51.6 lakh in 2019 to 66 lakh in 2020, a 28% increase. The crime rate (crimes per 1 lakh people) also rose from 385.5 in 2019 to 487.8 in 2020. The chart shows the % increase in total crimes (left-axis) and the crime rate (right-axis).

Nearly 42.54 lakh out of the 66 lakh crimes registered in 2020 were Indian Penal Code offences, while 23.46 lakh were Special & Local Laws offences.

Overall crime rate and % increase in crime September 15

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Fall in serious crimes

While the overall crime incidents increased, the number of violent and serious crimes fell across many crime heads in 2020 compared to 2019. Recorded incidents of rape decreased by 12.4%, crimes against children reduced by 19.3% and robberies declined by 22.4%. There was a slight increase in murders.

There were 20,231 fewer cases of kidnapping in 2020 compared to 2019.

Year-wise % change in serious crimes September 15 

Booked for flouting lockdowns

The rise in crimes in 2020 can be attributed to a sharp increase in the cases registered under “disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant (Sec. 188 IPC)." Such cases were registered mainly due to violations of COVID-19 norms. They were also recorded under ‘Other IPC Crimes’ and ‘Other State Local Acts.’

There was a 21 times increase in crimes related to disobeying public servant orders between 2019 and 2020.

Increase in unusual crimes September 15 

Improved rate

Both, police’s rate of filing charge sheets and the court’s rate of conviction recorded a significant rise in 2020. A decline in serious and violent crimes may have improved chargesheeting and conviction rates.

Police’s chargesheet rate in 2020 was 75.8%, the highest in five years.

Courts’ conviction rate in 2020 was 59.2%. It was an improvement from 46.9% recorded in 2015. It was also the highest in five years.

Chargesheeting and conviction rates September 15 

Source: National Crime Records Bureau, Crime in India reports (2015-2020)

Also read: India reported 11.8% rise in cyber crime in 2020; 578 incidents of 'fake news on social media': Data

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