Govt to start database of sex offenders

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Apr 22, 2018 04:23 PM IST

Police and legal authorities in any state would be able to access the data for verification of the antecedents of those charged with sexual offences, according to the ordinance cleared by the Union cabinet

India will have a database of sex offenders for the first time, a move officials said will help check a spurt in crime against women and children.

A child holds a placard during a protest against rape, in Kochi on April 15, 2018.(Reuters)
A child holds a placard during a protest against rape, in Kochi on April 15, 2018.(Reuters)

The sex offenders’ registry will have profile and personal details, including residential address, fingerprints, DNA sample and PAN number, of not only convicted offenders but also of those accused of such offences, said a senior government official who did not want to be named. Juvenile offenders will be included in the database.

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“The database, however, will not be open to public. Only law enforcement agencies will be able to access it,” the official added.

The decision on the database was taken on Saturday during a Cabinet meeting that also approved promulgation of an ordinance allowing courts to pronounce death penalty to those convicted of raping children below 12 years.

The stringent measure came amid nationwide outrage over a series of fatal sexual assaults on minor girls, including the highly-publicised rape-and-murder of a minor in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua.

The National Crime Records Bureau will maintain the database, which will be shared with states and union territories for tracking, monitoring and investigating, including verification of antecedents by police.

“For instance, before hiring a domestic help, a prospective employer can get his antecedents verified by the police. Even now, one has to get a police verification done before hiring a domestic help,” said the official.

Stuti Kacker, chairperson of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights, said it is a good idea to have a database and profile of such offenders, especially child sexual offenders.

“There have been instances in recent past where law enforcement agencies, during investigation, found that a particular accused was a repeat offender. If there is a database, law enforcement agencies can issue a note of caution.” Globally, many countries including UK, US, Canada and Australia, have such database of sexual offenders but only the US has a national website of sex offenders, which is open to the public.

Legal experts working on privacy matters, however, are against the government’s move and said maintaining a sex offenders’ registry can prove detrimental.

“Many international studies have shown that instead of preventing repeat offences, maintaining such a database has an adverse affect as person accused of sex crime does not have any incentive to reform. His identity as a rapist is established for life even after he has completed his sentence,” said Apar Gupta, a lawyer who works on privacy issues. Having a national database of sex offenders has been in the works for a while now.

The Union women and child development (WCD) ministry has been pushing for a sex offenders registry for over two years now. The project was expedited following the spate of sexual crimes against women and children and the growing clamour for deterrent measures. “We had written to the Union home ministry way back in 2015 to maintain a sex offenders’ registry,” said a senior WCD ministry official.

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