Sex Offenders Registry Becomes A Reality In India: Here’s Everything You Need To Know

Posted: September 21, 2018
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Whether low, moderate or highly dangerous sex offenders, the National Sex Offenders Registry in India is meant to help law enforcers keep track of them all. 

This is a developing story and it might be updated as fresh information becomes available.

Joining eight other countries in the world, India firmed its commitment to address sexual violence against women and children, by releasing the National Sex Offenders Registry. The database has been constructed using data compiled from prisons across the country, and records over 4.5 lakh cases with distinct profiles of first time and repeat offenders.

What is a sex-offenders registry?

A sex-offenders registry is a database that makes a list of all convicted sex-offenders in the country. They usually include personal information of the offender. This information is maintained for specific periods of time, depending entirely on the nature of the offense committed and the rules in place to govern its maintenance. Currently, aside of India, only the US, the UK, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, and Trinidad and Tobago have sex-offender registries.

What use is a sex-offender registry?

From the law enforcement’s angle, typically, a sex-offender registry is a way to address and speed up investigation processes. If earlier incidents are recorded, it is easier to identify potential repeat offenders, determine whether one is a repeat offender or not, and monitor their movements and activities. For civilians, if access to the records is made available, it can be referred to in interest of safety and security. In the US, sex-offender registries are public records, where civilians can identify those on the registry, which is relevant particularly in cases of babysitting hires, employment hires, and the like.

What is India’s sex-offenders registry like?

The decision to build the database was made in April 2018. The database comprises the names, residential address, fingerprints, DNA sample, and PAN or Aadhaar numbers of convicted offenders and the accused. At a time, data will be stored for 15 years for those who are classified as ‘low danger,’ for 25 years for those classified as ‘moderate danger,’ and for a lifetime of those convicted of violent crime, of habitual offenders, and of convicts in gang rapes and custodial rapes.

Charge-sheeted and arrested offenders will be included in the database – but this information will all be accessible only to officers that have the appropriate clearance. The database, maintained and updated by the National Crime Records Bureau, will only be accessible to law enforcement agencies, not to the public. Right at this moment, given that the database is accessible only to the law enforcement agencies in the country, it is a natural corollary that civilians cannot access this.

This is understandable from a standpoint of avoiding vigilante justice, while at the same time, allows room for some equally justifiable critique as to the accountability in pulling up data in an authentic manner, especially if the listed accused or convicted individual happens to be powerful. What is also not clear at this point is whether this database would be made available to the prosecution in the courts while prosecuting cases of sexual violence – and whether such entries would be admissible as evidence in court, if so, on what grounds.

The establishment of a sex offender registry is both essential and fundamental to the goal of ensuring safety against sexual violence. However, establishing one is only one part of the narrative: the longer journey of maintaining, updating and scrupulously using the registry has just begun.

It is not clear whether this registry will also include records of those accused or charged with workplace sexual harassment. This data set is especially important and relevant, given that hiring policies could include a background check centered on whether one finds place in the registry or not. This, again, remains to be spelled out in clear terms – given that the database is accessible only to law enforcement agencies, it is unclear whether a company can dip into it for a background check during a hiring process, or whether an RTI application maybe filed to seek information on the inclusion of anyone on the list.

Image Source – Pixabay

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