NCRB data shows, for example, that of the 9,588 cases that went to trial in Karnataka, there were convictions only in 25 cases, a conviction rate of only 0.26%.

NCRB data on caste violence in south India reveals alarmingly low conviction rates
news Crime Tuesday, October 22, 2019 - 17:29

The year 2017 witnessed several instances of caste-based violence in south India. In Andhra Pradesh’s Jaerripothulapalem village, a Dalit woman was allegedly dragged on the streets and had her clothes torn off, after she objected to the digging of a pit. A woman in Karnataka’s Bijapur district was set ablaze by her family members for marrying a Dalit man. A 21-year-old Dalit man was murdered in Tamil Nadu allegedly by three caste Hindu men, ostensibly for breaking a plastic tap in their field. Several cases of brutal caste-related violence have also been reported in the years that followed.

Despite the growing caste-based violence, the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data for the year 2017 released on Tuesday shows that conviction rates are very low. Alarmingly, Andhra Pradesh stands fifth in the country in the total number of registered cases of atrocities against Dalit and Adivasi communities in India with 2,310 reported incidents. The highest number of caste-based crimes have been reported in Uttar Pradesh, followed by Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

Of the reported incidents in the five southern states, 14.9% of the total number of cases were from Bengaluru, 5.6% from Hyderabad, 1.5% from Kochi, 1% from Chennai and 0.1% from Coimbatore.

Conviction rates

Of the five southern states, Karnataka recorded the highest number of cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis that went to trial in 2017. NCRB figures also show that the conviction rates in such cases are abysmally low.

Of the 9,588 cases that went to trial in Karnataka, there were convictions only in 25 cases. This means that convictions occurred only in 0.26% of the cases that went to trial. Kerala recorded 0.51% convictions in cases of atrocities against Dalits and Adivasis that went to trial in 2017. Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana recorded convictions in 1.09%, 1.94% and 1.57% of the cases that went to trial in 2017.

Karnataka has the lowest conviction rate in cases of atrocities against Dalits among the five southern states at 3.6%. The conviction rate in Tamil Nadu stands at 12.5%, while it is 8.1% in Telangana, 5.5% in Andhra Pradesh and 5.9% in Kerala.

The conviction rate for cases of atrocities against Adivasis too is abysmal in four of the five southern states in India. Andhra Pradesh has the lowest conviction rate among the five states at 1.4% followed by Karnataka with a 3% conviction rate. Telangana, Kerala and Tamil Nadu have conviction rates of 4.8%, 6.5% and 33.3% respectively in cases of atrocities against Adivasis.

Pending investigations

The number of cases of SC/ST atrocities pending investigation, according to NCRB figures, is appalling. Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have 5,158, 3,342, 3,281, 2,034 and 1,756 such cases pending investigation.

Speaking to TNM, retired IPS officer K Annamalai, says that the primary reason for the huge number of cases pending investigation is the lack of hard evidence.

“In most of these cases, a closure report is filed, the eyewitnesses turn hostile or there is intimidation from the accused persons. With no evidence to file chargesheets, it becomes difficult," he says.

One of the major hurdles for low convictions, he says, is that the witnesses turn hostile. In Karnataka, just 10 days ago, DG and IG Neelamani Raju issued a circular stating that all eyewitness testimonies must be videotaped by the police during questioning.

“Videotaping of eyewitness testimonies was not done in the past. Even during trials, in the cases where eyewitnesses testify, they will be persons from the same Dalit community. The defense counsel will argue that it is vested interest. The problem here is that it becomes difficult to prove intent. Conviction in atrocity cases happen mostly when the crime is grievous, where there are physical injuries, else intent is hard to prove,” Annamalai adds.