To curb the rising number of crimes against women, the Union Ministry has rolled out a National Registry of Sexual Offenders (NRSO), a massive database of convicted sexual offenders from across the nation.
In doing so, India joined a club of eight other countries who maintain a dedicated database on sexual offenders, including the US — the only country to keep its database in public domain even as the demand to review the policy grows. Other countries to maintain a database of sexual offenders are
- New Zealand
- South Africa
- Trinidad and Tobago
- United Kingdom
where such data of convicted sex offenders is maintained, but is purely for the consumption of the law enforcement authorities. India too has said that the database will remain accessible to law enforcement agencies only.
What is the NRSO?
The database will have personal details, including residential address, fingerprints, photo-identification, Aadhaar numbers, DNA sample and PAN number of not only convicted criminals but also of those accused of the crime or against whom an FIR is registered. However, the details of arrested and charge sheeted offenders can be accessed only by officers with the requisite clearance. The government is also mulling over introducing the list of juvenile offenders, as per the sources said. But a final decision on the same will be taken at a later time.
The National Crime Records Bureau will be tasked to maintain the database and profile of sexual offenders. It will collect information on more than 4.5 lakh cases from the past fifteen years, details of which will be collected from jails across the country.
The State Police have been requested to regularly update the database from 2005 onwards. The database includes name, address, photograph and fingerprint details for each entry.
Following the US style, the database will classify offenders based on the ‘severity of threat’ they cause to the society. As per the sources, the data will be stored for 15 years in the case of those who pose a low danger, 25 years for those posing “moderate danger” and lifetime for “habitual offenders, violent criminals, convicts in gang-rape and custodial rapes.
The register was proposed to be formed at the same Cabinet meet in April, when the promulgation of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Ordinance, 2018 to award death sentence to child rapists was passed.
Certain Flaws :-
- There was no clarity on the extent to which the state plans to use this data.
- Inclusion of juvenile offenders in the list at a later stage is another problematic avenue.
- Another issue lies in the definition of the term sexual offences. The draft guidelines reportedly include rape, voyeurism, stalking and aggravated sexual assault. However, the article in The Hindu points out, the Protection of Children From Sexual Offences Act, 2012 criminalises consensual sexual intercourse with minors and between minors. This could mean that a person could possibly face the wrath of objecting parents and live with the consequences of being on the register for a lifetime for having a consensual sexual relationship.