Women and child development minister Maneka Gandhi has proposed that all convicted sexual offenders above the age of 12 be included in a database the home ministry is working on as part of a network to keep track of criminals.
So far, plans were being made to include only adults – those aged 18 and above.
Sources said Maneka came up with the suggestion at a meeting with home minister Rajnath Singh earlier this week.
The home ministry has set a deadline of March 2017 to link the country’s 15,000 police stations as part of its Crime and Criminals Tracking Networking and Systems project. The CCTNS plan, aimed at helping law enforcers as well as alert ordinary citizens, includes a portal that would display a list of sex offenders, proclaimed offenders and most-wanted criminals.
Maneka, the sources said, proposed that even juveniles above 12 convicted of sexual crimes be included in the list, which, as of now, is supposed to be open to the public.
The sources, however, said Maneka did not propose that the identity of the minors be revealed on the portal; just that their names be recorded in the database so that it’s easy to monitor them.
Maneka’s push for a systematic and standardised format to monitor children in conflict with the law comes at a time the then juvenile convicted in the December 2012 gang rape case is set for imminent release.
“The minister has proposed that such children be monitored by an NGO or the local police once a month so that the government can keep track of their movements till it is clear they have completely reformed,” said a source.
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the overall juvenile crime rate has come down, even if marginally, according to figures for 2013 and 2014. Juveniles accounted for 1.18 per cent of crimes committed across India in 2014, down from 1.2 per cent in 2013.
In 2014, 2.5 per cent of all murders were committed by juveniles, compared to 3 per cent in 2013. As for rapes, juveniles accounted for 5.4 per cent of all cases last year, down from 5.6 per cent in 2013.
Recidivism (relapse into crime) among juveniles has also come down, from 11.2 per cent in 2012 to 5.4 per cent in 2014.
Activists say the Centre is unnecessarily panicking over minors in conflict with the law because most of the offences they commit are petty.
“For God’s sake, there should be an end to such panic. There is hardly any evidence to show children repeating sexual offences. There are other crucial areas on victim protection that the government should focus on. Such ideas of creating a directory of juveniles sound populist and lack seriousness…,” said child rights activist Anant Kumar Asthana. “Experiments like these anyway have a reputation for getting mediocre response worldwide.”
The database being prepared by the home ministry is expected to have the names, photographs and addresses of child abusers open to public scrutiny. In the West, only the names of convicted offenders are listed in such registries and, in many cases, only law officers have access to such records.
In the US, where the names of juvenile sex offenders are open to public scrutiny, a huge debate is on to pull them out of the database.