Whether it is investigating cases or pendency in cases before the courts, Maharashtra seems to have a dismal record. According to statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Maharashtra had the maximum number of cases pending cases in 2020 which is 2,07,962. It also had the maximum number of cases at 74,039 wherein the there was insufficient evidence or the accused was untraceable.
Among the cities, Mumbai stood second by recording 76,763 cases. It stood second to Delhi which had 92,622 cases pending investigation.
Former state DGP D Sivanandan said, “If the case is in court for trial, the police is not responsible for it. But if there is delay in investigation or any lapse in the case then the police can be held responsible. The department should come up with a continuous training programme to teach better techniques of gathering evidence. They must hire cyber experts and technical officers and use forensic labs to help curb the increasing number of pending cases.” Similarly, the number of police officials vaccinated currently is just 22 per cent.
“We are still not matching the police population ratio of advanced countries. We should recruit more officers who will help investigate the case so that the present officers are not overburdened with more cases,” Sivanandhan added.
Former additional director general, Maharashtra prisons, Meeran Chadha Borwankar said, “In my experience, the Maharashtra police is very proactive in registering a chargesheet within the stipulated 60 to 90 days. The pendency shown must be of cases registered during the last two or three months of the year. No registration of an FIR is a big issue in other states. However, the Maharashtra police is comparatively more open in this regard. Crime statistics therefore do not convey the real picture. Our weak point has been the huge court pendency and low conviction rate. To correct it we need to fill up vacancies of police officers, prosecutors and judiciary. And create more posts in all the three wings.”
Interestingly, Maharashtra had the maximum number of cases pending trial at the end of the year 2020 with 1882532 cases pending. West Bengal with 1455107, Gujarat with 1372149, Bihar with 1302421 and Uttar Pradesh with 1251725 cases came second, third, fourth and fifth. Maharashtra also came second with cases pending trial from 2019 with 1547019 cases with Gujarat having the maximum number of cases pending trial with 1857742 cases and Uttar Pradesh taking the third spot with 1322674.
"All stakeholders are responsible for the pendency. Judges, advocates, their staff everyone is working beyond their limits daily to dispose of the cases. The other issue is the state isn't providing requisite funds for the judiciary. Somehow the state is also reasonable in focusing on public welfare schemes. But some more priority must be given to judiciary to provide better facilities so that cases are disposed of at a better speed. Appoint more judges, provide more courts etc is a probable solution," Prasad Dhakephalkar, senior counsel
The performance of Maharashtra fast track courts was also questionable with only 11 cases being completed of which only trial in one case was finished within 3 months, 2 cases were finished within 6 months. 8 of the remaining cases were finished within a period of three years or five years.
This is in sharp contrast to Uttar Pradesh where 10,416 cases were completed through fast track courts. 9 cases in Uttar Pradesh finished trial within a month, 528 cases took just 1 to 3 months to finish trial, 439 cases took just 3 to 6 months and trial concluded in 641 cases within 6 to 12 months.
"It's disgraceful to see only 11 cases have been disposed off. Also, the piling backlog is a huge concern. The state must provide better infrastructure to the judiciary but that is not being done properly. Video conferencing facilities are being used even in HC and SC why isn't that being done in lower courts? As far as cases in which probe isn't completed are concerned, I believe that the state must avoid sending police on bandobast duties or looking after political events. This can help in better investigations," Aspi Chinoy, senior counsel.
“Fast track courts need to be audited to evaluate their performance. My firm opinion is that the government is being penny wise and pound foolish in not investing more resources in the criminal justice system. It has no doubt emboldened criminals. A criminal case if decided within one year sends a strong message to all who have or are inclined to commit crime. Our economic performance too is dependent on public order, women safety and an atmosphere conducive to the well being of citizens. Therefore, we need more investigating officers, competent prosecutors and capable judicial officers. In short, we need to overhaul the system as tinkering with police or blaming them will serve no purpose," added Borwankar.
"We are registering about five lakh cases in a year. Chargesheet rate in cases of murder, attempt to commit murder, theft or dacoity are 90 to 95 per cent. For instance, cases of burglary are difficult to get detected and detection takes time. This is not only in the case of Mumbai, but other places as well. Same is in case of vehicle thefts are concerned," said Additional Director General of Police, (state law and order), Rajendra Singh.
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