Saga of corruption in India, most accused go scot free

Srinagar:Corruption is undoubtedly eating into vitals of the contemporary society especially when poor conviction rate is indicative of the lack of certainty about being punished for corruption, revealed the latest findings by Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), an international non-government organization in “Fact and Fiction: Government’s Efforts to Combat Corruption (CHRI’s preliminary findings from a study of NCRB’s (National Crime Records Bureau) Statistics (2001-2015).” Even though some states registered a large number of corruption cases and sent several to trial, convictions were poor. While 90 percent of the accused were acquitted in Jammu and Kashmir after trial during the past 15 years, in states like Goa, Manipur and Tripura the acquittals were 100 percent, the findings added. The corruption cases did not constitute even onepercent of the total number of crimes registered across the country.

CHRI analysed statistics relating to corruption cases reported from the stage of registration to the stage of conviction, as reported by NCRB since the beginning of the 21st century, said Venkatesh Nayak, Programme Coordinator, Access to Information Programme, CHRI. Some of the preliminary findings suggested that over 54,139 cases were registered across 29 states and seven Union Territoriesduring 2001-2015. While 53,164 of these cases were registered in the states, 975 cases were registered in the Union Territories. Almost 51 percent (27,171) of these cases were registered in the central and southern parts of India. The four southern Indian states along with Goa and Puducherry accounted for more than 26.5 percent of the registered cases. Karnataka (4,732) topped the list followed by Andhra Pradesh (3,804), Tamil Nadu (3,261), Kerala (2,464) and Telangana (332) while Puducherry registered just 46 cases during this period.

Amongst the larger states, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh registered 3,344 cases, 1,179 and 968 cases respectively while smaller states comparatively registered more cases with Punjab registering 3,171 cases, Kerala 2,464 cases and Haryana and Himachal Pradesh registered 2,446 and 1,080 cases respectively. Maharashtra (8,875), Rajasthan (6,393), Odisha (5,085), Karnataka (4,732) and Andhra Pradesh (3,804) figured amongst the top five states with the highest number of cases of corruption registered during this time-period. Gujarat registered 3,148 cases during this period while Jammu and Kashmir registered 948 cases, Chhattisgarh 560 cases and Jharkhand 509 cases. With 739 registered cases, Delhi topped the list of Union Territories.

Meghalaya registered the lowest number of cases (15) during this time-period with Tripura 28 cases, Manipur 32 cases, West Bengal 39 and Arunachal Pradesh 66 cases, the CHRI added. It further stated that more than 56 percent of the corruption cases in West Bengal were registered in 2015 while no cases were registered there in 2002, 2004-06, 2008-10 and 2012. Amongst the states in eastern and northeastern part of the country, Sikkim topped the list with 186 registered cases followed by Assam (134), Nagaland (105), Mizoram (75), Arunachal Pradesh (66), Manipur (33), Tripura (28) and Meghalaya (15). No cases were registered in Manipur (2009 and 2013), Meghalaya (between 2002-04 and 2009-13), Mizoram (2003-04), Nagaland (2002-03 and in 2006) and Tripura (during 2002 and 2010-12), mentioned the CHRI.

It further stated that NCRB reported registration of 9.11 crore offences across the country, punishable under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and various special laws (coded as SLL in the NCRBD datasets) during this time-period. “As a proportion of these offences, corruption cases account for not even one percent of this figure. At a mere 0.06 percent of the total, corruption seems like a less than minor problem,” it emphasized. The NCRB reported the registration of a little more than five lakh cases of murder (501,852 cases) across the country. For ten murders registered, only one case of corruption was registered across the country, the CHRI added. During this 15-year period, the NCRB reported the registration of 5.87 lakh cases (587,347 cases) of kidnapping or abduction across the country.  The NCRB reported registration of 3.54 lakh cases of robbery across the country (354,453 cases) between 2001-2015.

With 54,139 cases registered across the country (irrespective of the outcome) trial was completed in 55.26 percent (29,920 cases). “In other cases, the accused were discharged or the FIR was quashed or the case was simply not put up for trial or the trial was still going on,” said the CHRI. Maharashtra, which registered the largest number of cases, completed the trial in 72.10 percent of the cases (6,399 against 8,875 registered cases). Haryana topped the list with 86.10 percent (2,106 against 2,446 registered cases) followed by Gujarat at 81.26 percent (2,558 against 3,148 registered cases). Himachal Pradesh completed the trial in 67.78 percent of the cases (732 against 1,080 registered cases), Karnataka in 62.51 percent (2,958 against 4,732 registered cases) and Jammu and Kashmir in 54.64 percent (518 against 948 registered cases). The trial was completed in 83 percent of the cases in Chandigarh (95 against 114 registered cases), 35 percent of the cases in Sikkim (65 against 186 registered cases), 31.56 percent in Rajasthan (2,018 against 6,393 cases), 30.37 percent cases in Uttar Pradesh (294 against 968 registered cases) and 23.86 percent cases in Tamil Nadu (778 against 3,261 registered cases). The trial was completed in a mere 5.3 percent of the cases in Jharkhand (27 against 509 registered cases) and 8.82 percent cases in Bihar (104 against 1,179 registered cases. According to the NCRB’s data sets, trial was not completed in any of the 15 cases registered in Meghalaya and in 66 cases registered in Arunachal Pradesh during this time period.

The CHRI further shared that the national average (2001-2015) for corruption cases sent up for trial ending in conviction is 35.33 percent, that is roughly one in every three cases going up for trial ending in the conviction of the accused. However, as a proportion of the number of registered cases, the national average for convictions is a mere 18.94 percent, that is for every 100 corruption cases registered roughly 19 ended in conviction on an average during 2001-15. Madhya Pradesh topped the list of states with the highest proportion (56.15 percent) of cases sent up for trial ending in conviction (1,005 out of 1,790) where a large number of cases were sent up for trial. As a proportion of registered cases, 30 percent ended in conviction. In Karnataka, only 20.75 percent of the cases sent up for trial ended in conviction making it the lowest success rate amongst the states. As a proportion of registered cases, the rate of conviction was only 12.98 percent. In Bihar, the conviction rate was high at 67.31 percent but only 104 of the 1,179 cases were sent up for trial during the 15-year period. However, as a proportion of the registered cases’ convictions were attained only in about six percent of the cases. In Uttar Pradesh, the conviction rate in cases sent up for trial was 40.48 percent and the proportion of convictions to registered cases was only 12.29 percent. In Jharkhand, despite only 27 of the 509 registered cases sent up for trial, 55.55 percent ended in conviction (15 cases) and as a proportion of registered cases, the conviction rate was an abysmal 2.95 percent.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the proportion of convictions in cases sent up for trial was 31.85 percent but as a proportion of registered cases, it was only 17.41 percent. Kerala clocked the highest conviction rate among states that registered a large number of cases as a proportion of cases sent up for trial at 62.95 percent.  Despite several cases going up for trial, no convictions were reported from West Bengal, Goa, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura and Meghalaya. In Manipur only one case was reported to have reached conviction during this period.

The CHRI stated that trials involving 43,394 individuals were completed across 28 states (excluding Himachal Pradesh) and seven Union Territories during this period. A total of 68.19 percent (29,591) of the accused were acquitted by courts during this 15-year period (excluding Himachal Pradesh), which meant that only 31.81 percent (13,803) of the accused were found guilty by courts. In Goa, Manipur and Tripura, the acquittals were 100 percent and all the 30 accused were acquitted by courts in these states. In Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the trial was completed in relation to one accused during this period resulting in acquittal. Nagaland is the only state that bucked this trend with convictions of more than 90 percent of the accused. Conviction was high (70 percent) in Assam as well. Almost 90 percent of the accused were acquitted in Jammu and Kashmir. Besides, 78.60 percent of the accused were acquitted in Maharashtra, 78.37 percent were acquitted in Karnataka, 78.31 percent in Uttar Pradesh, 70.39 percent in Gujarat and 54.15 percent in Bihar.

Despite fewer cases reaching the trial stage in the tribal-dominated states of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand, the conviction figures were relatively better at 42.53 percent and 41.46 percent respectively, mentioned the CHRI. At the same time it pointed towards Haryana and Punjab who though performed better in terms of the number of cases being registered and going to trial, but the acquittal figures were high (76.22 percent and 69.10 percent respectively). The acquittals in Tamil Nadu were reported at 65.85 percent while Andhra Pradesh and Kerala witnessed about 48 percent acquittals, each.

The CHRI also highlighted that the data from Himachal Pradesh appeared to be unreliable wherein the statistics indicated that the trial was completed in 4,066 cases. However, the total number of persons convicted during this time-frame was reported to be 239 and the total number of acquittals was reported to be 1,129. This, according to CHRI, demonstrated the unreliability of the data.

According to a UN estimate, every year, US$ 1 trillion is paid in bribes and US$ 2.6 trillion are stolen through corruption – a sum equivalent to more than five percent of the global GDP, said Venkatesh Nayak, programme coordinator, Access to Information Programme (CHRI) in a statement in December 2016. He added that Transparency International, in 2015, rated India the 76th among 168 countries surveyed for people’s perceptions about how corrupt they perceived their governments to be.

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