India starts first-ever sex offenders’ registry: Who will it help and how?

Sources say the national sex offenders’ registry will help conduct background checks, police verification of prospective employees, tenants, etc.
India starts first-ever sex offenders’ registry: Who will it help and how?
India starts first-ever sex offenders’ registry: Who will it help and how?
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India launched a national sex offenders’ registry on Thursday, which will have records of about 4.4 lakh people convicted of various sexual offences from 2005 onwards. The records will include the convict’s name, address, fingerprints and photographs.

The demand for the registry has been a long-standing one – right from Jyoti Singh’s brutal gangrape and death in Delhi in 2012 to the arrest of Sunil Rastogi by the Delhi police, a man who is claimed to have sexually abused 500 minor girls in January last year. And though states like Kerala and Haryana set up their own sex offenders’ registry, accessible to the public, the national sex offenders’ registry is available only to law enforcement agencies.

So, if you cannot view the registry, how does it benefit you? TNM spoke to a source in the Women and Child Development Ministry to find out.

How the sex offenders’ registry will be used

According to the source, the sex offenders’ registry would mainly be used to conduct background checks and police verification of prospective employees, tenants and so on.

“If a person has served time for a sexual crime, their record will be there in the registry. Suppose this person applies for a job later and there is a police verification… Usually, the intelligence or law enforcement agencies have to struggle here and there to figure out their background. With this registry, there is a one-stop place to get their prior records,” the source said.

Further, the registry will be used to zero-in on repeat offenders, such as Sunil Rastogi, and it can help monitor the movement of sexual offenders to an extent.

“If a person has been convicted of a sexual offence in Maharashtra, serves time, and travels to another state and commits a similar crime, the police in that state will be able flag him as a repeat offender,” the source explained.

Further, if a person convicted under POCSO applies for a passport anywhere in the country, the registry will throw up their name and alert the authorities of the person’s movement.

Who can access the sex offenders’ registry?

As of now, the registry, which is a centralised database, can only be accessed by designated police officials. State police have been directed to log records of sex offenders in it from 2005 onwards.

While it is not accessible to the public, you can avail the service as, say, a prospective employer. “You are anyway supposed to do a police verification when you hire someone. So when you approach the police to do the same, this time they will have the registry to refer to as well,” the WCD Ministry source said.

And while each police official may not have access to the registry, the source assured that they would be able to get the information required.

Who will figure on the registry in the future?

The sex offenders’ registry will presently store the data of those convicts classified as “low danger” to society for 15 years, the data of those who are of “moderate danger” to society for 25 years. Habitual offenders, violent criminals, those convicted in gangrape and custodial rape cases will figure permanently in the registry, according to reports.

However, the WCD Ministry source told TNM, “Progressively, we will also include names of people who are chargesheeted, apart from those found guilty.”

As for making the registry public, the source said that it was something still under consideration, but it is not impossible in the near future.

However, a Karnataka-based IPS officer told TNM that while the registry would help them track criminals who are on the run or are committing crimes in a new area, keeping the registry updated was a challenge.

“If such a registry is made for sexual offenders, other than helping us, it help may encourage more victims to come out and identify criminals. Moreover, the existence of such a registry will act as a deterrent to offenders,” the officer said.

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