A project proposed in 2009 by the erstwhile UPA government finally got approved on Wednesday, which will allow citizens to check if a person has previously been convicted of any crime relating to sex or child abuse.
The Central Government approved the formation of a directory consisting of a list of sexual offenders.
According to the Home Ministry, the portal will be functional by March 2017, giving common people access to a nationwide list of sexual offenders which they can refer to, for various purposes and it will also improve transparency.
The compilation that will be available on both state and central government websites is part of other e-governance projects that were approved by the home ministry, relating to the Crime and Criminals Tracking Network and Systems (CCTNS) project.
An Economic Times report adds:
All police stations will populate their respective state citizen portals, which will link to the central Registry. "This would be a consolidated national registry of charge-sheeted offenders in cases specific to crimes against women -- Sec 375 (rape), Sec 376 A, Sec 376 B and other sexual offences. The individual's name will be removed from the list if acquitted," a home ministry official told ET.
But activists dealing with rehabilitation of victims of crime and sexual abuse are divided in their opinion about the formation of such a database.
"It will certainly help in verification. There are already existing databases by non-government entities. If a person is convicted by a court, then it’s alright to have a database," quipped one activist who wished to remain anonymous.
Shaibya Saldanha, another child rights activist based in Bangalore said, “It’s a good idea if only convicted people are on the list, but the authorities need to ensure that the rate of conviction increases.”
Darshana, a lawyer with the Alternative Law Forum based in Bangalore said, “I think this is certainly going to help with regard to offences committed against children, and school authorities can be aware of the person they are going to hire.”
However, she does have her doubts. “It can be a terrible idea too as Indian law is really not that progressive,” she says, citing Section 377, which criminalizes homosexuality and unnatural sex.
“The information can be misused to further harass people of the LGBT community,” she added.
Renowned child rights activist Nina Nayak, also feels otherwise.
"There is a need to localize, not centralize. More things need to be done at the ground level. Local police stations need to keep track of these offenders and of their movements by asking them to report to the police station on a weekly or monthly basis," she says while adding that the offenders also "need to be counselled, so that they don't do it again."
"A lot of people actually do not report such cases to the police because of the stigma involved," she says while suggesting that there will still be a large proportion of offenders who will not make it to the database.
"This could also result in fear psychosis among the general public," she adds.