129,000 investigations pending with overstretched Delhi police

New Delhi: A shortage of investigating officers, delays in the examination of forensic evidence and a deluge of first information reports (FIRs) lodged online have led to as many as 129,000 cases pending investigation with the national capital’s overworked police department .
Police data accessed by HT shows that of the cases pending until mid- April, 75,188 were added this year. The backlog remains daunting despite the disposal of 83,077 cases since the start of January until April 15, the data shows.
Investigations of at least 38,000 cases had not been completed for six months. Similarly, around 13,000 cases had been pending for the last two years. Delhi police also had 7,055 cases in which its investigators had not been able to file closure reports since 2015.
According to the police, cases pending investigation are ones that are awaiting closure reports and are at three stages – filing of the charge sheet, cases in which there has been no breakthrough, and cases in which the charges made against suspects have been cancelled.
The police department, which has around 80,000 personnel for a city with a population of 16.78 million according to the 2011 census, has its sympathizers. Retired Indian Police Service officer Prakash Singh, who works on police reforms, said a shortage of staff and inadequate forensic facilities were the main reasons behind delayed investigations .
“There are 180 police personnel for every lakh of population in the country. This, however, is only on paper. The ground reality is only 139 police personnel per lakh of population. The number should ideally be 222. Delhi may be the Capital of the country but it faces a similar staff crunch,” he said.
“Apart from this, the forensic facilities are inadequate. In January 2015, there were at least five lakh exhibits awaiting forensic examination across country. These factors delay investigations, leading to pendency of cases,” he said.
With 8% of the total pending cases, south district police tops the chart for the case backlog among 15 police districts. South Delhi police also has the highest number of cases — 4,081 — pending investigation for over six months, the data reveals. The percentage share is the highest among all the police districts and units of the force.
South Delhi is also at the top when it comes to district-wise classification of cases pending investigation. South district police have around 11,000 pending cases. With 2,930 cases, the district also has highest number of cases pending investigations for over two years. New Delhi district, which comprises mostly Lutyens’ Delhi and VIP areas, had the lowest number of pending cases as on April 15 — just 2.4% of the total cases pending.
After South Delhi, Dwarka police district stood second in the list of the laggards, followed by Rohini district. Dwarka district had 10,970 pending cases; Rohini is yet to file closure reports in 10,517 cases.
The ‘Special Cell’, a unit that deals with terror-related cases, had 17 cases pending till April 15, out of which 14 were added this year. At least 714 cases of white-collar crime, which has to do financial misdemeanour that’s not violent in nature, were also pending with the economic offences wing of Delhi Police till April 15.
A senior officer said on condition of anonymity that Delhi Police commissioner Amulya Patnaik, at a meeting last month, pulled up the force for the heavy backlog.
Explaining the reasons for delay in investigations, another officer said cases of cheating and forgery, for example, required forensic examination of documents.
“The scrutiny of these documents takes long, even two years at times,” the officer said, also on condition of anonymity. “Other than this, investigating officers keep changing and the new one takes time in understanding the case from the beginning to be able to probe it fairly. Also, some most heinous cases require a minute and diligent probe, which is often time consuming.”
Delhi Police public relations officer Madhur Verma said investigations suffer because of inadequate forensic capacity.
“We have only one FSL (forensic science laboratory of Delhi government dedicated to Delhi Police. In some cases, we send evidence to Central Forensic Science Labs and even to laboratories in Hyderabad and Chandigarh. But it has resulted in backlogs. The government is working towards improving the availability of forensic laboratories and the matter has been taken up previously,” Verma said.
Depender Pathak, special commissioner of police and chief spokesperson for Delhi Police, said that an investigation has to be thorough.
“Investigating Officers are hard pressed as the numbers of cases constantly keep rising. To chargesheet a case, proper investigation is must,” Pathak said, adding that it had been a priority of the Delhi Police to reduce the number of pending cases.
Delhi has also seen a constant rise in the number of crimes the police record every year. Some 191,377 cases were registered in 2015 and 209,519 in 2016. In 2017, the police recorded 233,580 cases.
“Cases add up because Delhi Police has made it very convenient for its citizen to report a crime. Time to time, we have also issued a number of circulars and made standard operating procedures (SOPs) to ensure and direct district and unit heads for speedy investigation of cases.”
First information reports, for instance, can be lodged online in crimes such as theft of motor vehicles, mobile phones and wallets among other things.

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