The number of kidnapping cases in Karnataka has risen by 1,054 in 2022, as compared to 2021.
The number of kidnapping cases being registered in Karnataka has witnessed a hike in the past year. Police attribute this increase to cases of elopement or underage marriages, which are being registered as kidnapping.
“There has been a significant increase in the number of kidnapping cases in the state,” Ganesh, Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI), said. He said that each case is taken very seriously and they aim to find the kidnapped or missing person within 48 hours. “We conduct a very fast and serious investigation,” added the ASI.
Karnataka’s crime data states that there were 3,080 cases of kidnapping registered in 2019. This number shot up to 5,084 in 2021. The number of cases again increased by 20.7 percent and went to 6,138 in 2022. When compared to 2019, the number of cases almost doubled in 2022.
Only 10 percent of the kidnapping cases are actual kidnappings in which a ransom is demanded, said ASI Ganesh. “Around 90 percent of the kidnapping cases are elopement or underage marriage cases which we register as kidnapping.” He added that this is how it is in Bengaluru as well as across Karnataka.
Advocate Paneesh said that most of the time, the victims are kidnapped by someone they know. “The most common reason I see is property and money disputes.”
ASI Ganesh explained that most of these cases involve boys who have just turned 18 or are over 18 years old and girls who are 14 to 17 years old. Since the boy is a major and the girl a minor, when the girl’s parents lodge a complaint; a kidnapping case is registered. He said that most of the youth are experiencing freedom for the first time, especially after dealing with the lockdown. This may be one of the reasons why they started eloping more. He added that even if the girl runs away voluntarily, it is still considered kidnapping under the law.
Section 363 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) states that a person convicted of kidnapping will be punishable with imprisonment and is liable to a fine. The term for imprisonment may extend up to seven years. Under the IPC, the consent of a minor girl is not considered valid. So, in cases of elopements, the boy, who is a major, will be prosecuted for kidnapping.
“Even if the girl gives a statement in court saying that she voluntarily ran away, it will not be considered valid,” said Advocate Paneesh. The boy will be prosecuted as a kidnapper based on the complaint filed by the girl’s parents. He added that it is disheartening to see so many young people getting caught and having their future ruined.
“If the element of consent is present and the element of forcefulness is absent; there should be no problem,” said Professor K. Jaishankar, Principal Director of the International Institute of Crime and Security Sciences. But the court only looks at the age of consent and does not consider the issue of consent. He said that some girls do not disclose their age when they get on online dating platforms. He added that he has seen cases where the boy is fooled into thinking the girl is a major and does not find out the truth until he is prosecuted.
Prof. Jaishankar said that lack of awareness and understanding might be a few of the reasons for the increase in the number of kidnapping cases. He added that everyone should be educated about the basic and common laws. “Maybe then, things like this can be avoided.”