By Prarthana Mitra
In a step that is perhaps long-overdue in a country deemed unsafest for women, India will get its first official database for registered sex offenders, thus becoming the ninth country in the world to have one.
On Thursday, official sources informed the media that the newly launched National Registry of Sexual Offenders (NRSO) contains more than 4.5 lakh cases, including profiles of first-time and repeat offenders, sourced from prison records across the country. Containing their names, photographs, residential address, fingerprints, DNA samples, PAN and Aadhaar numbers, this registry will classify convicted sexual offenders on the basis of their criminal history and the threat they pose to society.
“The database will be maintained by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) under the Ministry of Home Affairs and made available to law enforcement agencies for various purposes, including investigation and employee verification,” a senior government official told The Indian Express.
Unlike the FBI database which is accessible to US citizens, the NRSO will be available only to law enforcement agencies in India, much like those in the UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Trinidad & Tobago. To begin with, it will store information on “low danger” offenders for 15 years, 25 years for those presenting “moderate danger” and indefinitely for “habitual offenders, violent criminals, convicts in gangrape and custodial rapes.” Sources added that access to information on arrested and chargesheeted offenders will be limited to officers with the requisite clearance.
When asked if there’s a place for juvenile offenders on the database, they informed that such cases will be included at a later stage.
Notwithstanding the 12% increase in rape cases reported by the NCRB in 2016, the decision to set up the database was taken in April, in the wake of heinous cases of sexual assault of minors and women, notably in Kathua and Unnao. Following nationwide outrage over the lack of punitive and investigative mechanisms, the Union Cabinet issued the Criminal Law Ordinance 2018 shortly afterward, making rape of a minor below 12years punishable by death.
Along with the recent launch of a National Misson for the Saftey of Women, this database is expected to send the message that the Government considers gender crimes a top priority. The database is expected to help fast-track investigation and prosecution of these crimes, and deliver speedy justice to the victims.
A law student’s crowdsourced initiative taken to official completion
A similar database was also set up law student Raya Sarkar, late last year, comprising an unofficial list of sexual predators in Indian academia, which was compiled based on allegations brought forward by students from eminent universities. While most were deeply critical of the crowdsourced list and sceptical of the entire vigilante justice route, the list’s curator claimed that it serves as a word of caution for female students, and did initiate important and uncomfortable conversation about sexual harassment.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius.
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