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Registry of sex offenders: 4.4 lakh names in all, 3000 identified in Delhi since 1995

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Registry of sex offenders: 4.4 lakh names in all, 3000 identified in Delhi since 1995

India became the ninth country in world to maintain a dedicated database on sexual offenders with the Centre on Thursday rolling out a National Registry of Sexual Offenders (NRSO), a massive database of convicted sexual offenders from across the nation.

Other countries to maintain a database of sexual offenders are USA, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and Trinidad and Tobago. Except for US, the date of convicted sex offenders is purely for the consumption of the law enforcement authorities. US is the only country to keep its database in public domain even as the demand to review the policy grows.

India too has said that the database will remain accessible to law enforcement agencies only.

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 chargesheeted offenders can be accessed only by officers with the requisite clearance, The Indian Express reported.

The government is also mulling over introducing the list of juvenile offenders, the newspaper reported. But a final decision on the same will be taken at a later time.

The decision to set up the database was taken in April following nationwide outrage over cases of sexual assault on minors, including the rape and murder of an eight-year-old girl in J&K’s Kathua.

The Union Cabinet had subsequently promulgated the Criminal Law Ordinance, 2018, for the death penalty to be handed out to those convicted of raping children below 12 years.

With the launch of this database, the Government hopes to convey the message ahead of elections next year that the safety of women and children is its top priority. Recently, it set up a National Mission for the Safety of Women, headed by the Union Cabinet Secretary, to undertake specified actions, including setting up Special Fast Track Courts, strengthening forensic facilities, appointing additional public prosecutors, and providing appropriate medical and rehabilitation facilities to victims.

The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will be tasked to maintain the database and profile of sexual offenders over the past fifteen years, with details from jails across the country.

According to NCRB, there has been a three per cent increase in crimes against women and a 12 per cent rise in rapes in 2016, as compared to 2015. As many as 38,947 rape cases were registered in 2016, up from 34,651 in 2015. Overall, cases of crimes against women rose from 3,29,243 in 2015 to 3,38,954 in 2016, according to NCRB.

India has one-fifth of the world’s child population and unfortunately, also has the largest number of child sexual abuse cases registered in the world. According to government figures released in December 2017, a child is sexually abused every 15 minutes.

Following the US style, the database classifies offenders based on the ‘severity of threat’ they pose to the society. According to The Hindu, 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 gangrape and custodial rapes.”

Move gets support from WCD ministry, child and women rights’ groups

There have been instances in the past where convicted sexual offenders have committed the crime multiple times only because there was no central registry maintaining records.

Union Minister of Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi has been a long-time advocate of such a register. When the 38-year-old Sunil Rastogi was arrested earlier this year for raping and sexually assaulting minors, he confessed to the cops that he had assaulted around 500 girls in the states of Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Rastogi was arrested, jailed and then released only to repeat this crime. Union minister Maneka Gandhi lamented that if an SOR was in place, many of Rastogi’s crime could have been prevented, said report on news portal Firstpost.

Gandhi pointed out that the listing of names of sexual offenders and placing it in the public domain would definitely act as a deterrent.

Sunita Krishna, who runs the NGO Prajwala which claims it has rescued and rehabilitated more than 10,000 rape victims, told Firstpost that she suppports the move. She believes only “the public naming and shaming of offenders” will stop this sharp increase in rape.

Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi had also urged the government to push for a registry of sexual offenders, propagating the ‘name and shame’ approach in dealing with sexual predators.  “Name and shame them. Sexual offenders should not be accepted as employees anywhere,” he had said in the past.

Experts point out flaws in system, say move will discourage victims from reporting crime

“Government statistics (in the US) indicate that most sexual abuse of children is committed by family members or trusted authority figures, and by someone who has not previously been convicted of a sex offence. In India, too, children are often sexually abused by people known to them and regarded as authority figures. The government must ensure implementation of existing measures…including enforcement of the POCSO Act,” Jayshree Bajoria, author of Human Rights Watch report documenting barriers to justice for sexual assault survivors in India, told PTI.

Activists in India say that the talk of these lists is a knee-jerk reaction to cases such as the Kathua and Unnao rape cases, both of which involved minor victims, and is intended to satisfy the public rage against sexual abuse by strangers.

“If it is a family member, a person known to the family of the victim, which is true in most cases in India, will this work? I have my doubts. The registry operates most aggressively in the US. However, there is very little evidence in that country to show that it has helped to prevent sexual assaults against children,” said Supreme Court advocate KV Dhananjay.

Speaking to Hindustan Times, Apar Gupta, a lawyer who works on privacy issues, even opined that there is no empirical evidence to support that the law actually helped bring down crime in countries where it has been existence for over a decade.

“Many international studies have shown that instead of preventing repeat offences, maintaining such a database has an adverse affect as person accused of sex crime does not have any incentive to reform. His identity as a rapist is established for life even after he has completed his sentence,” he said.

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PM Modi inaugurates 3 major space infrastructure projects, announces names of astronauts for Gaganyaan mission

The four pilots have been training at the astronaut training facility in Bengaluru.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi today revealed the names of four pilots preparing for the country’s historic Gaganyaan human space travel program. Group Captain P Balakrishnan Nair, Group Captain Ajit Krishnan, Group Captain Angad Pratap, and Wing Commander S Shukla, are the four pilots who are selected for this mission.

The PM also bestowed astronaut wings to the four astronaut-designates.

PM Modi addressed the people there and said, he is happy that today he got the opportunity to meet these astronauts and present them in front of the country. He also congratulated the astronauts on behalf of the entire country. PM Modi also hailed the astronaut as the pride of the country.

Meanwhile, the PM inaugurated three major infrastructure projects of ISRO valued at 1800 crore during his visit to Vikram Sarabhai Space Center in Kerala on Tuesday. PM Narendra Modi is on a two-day visit to the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu starting Tuesday, February 27.

The projects include the PSLV Integration Facility at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre, Sriharikota, the new Semi-cryogenics Integrated Engine and stage Test facility at ISRO Propulsion Complex at Mahendragiri, and Trisonic Wind Tunnel at VSSC, Thiruvananthapuram.

Before the inauguration ceremonyISRO chairman S Somanath extended his respects to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a felicitation ceremony held at the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) in Thiruvananthapuram.

The ISRO chairman said, with the support of the honorable Prime Minister, the space sector is undergoing rapid transformation for expansion. He added that the long-term space vision for Amrit Kal had already been announced by the Prime minister. He further added that the vision had been created for Amrit Kal with the space sector as the torch bearer.

After the inauguration ceremony, the Prime Minister is scheduled to address public gatherings in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, and Tiruppur, Tamil Nadu. Additionally, he will participate in the program called Creating the Future – Digital Mobility for Automotive MSME Entrepreneurs in Madurai.

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Rahul Gandhi reacts to Hijab controversy, says what a person wears is their responsibility and nobody should decide what they wear

Rahul Gandhi said what a woman wears is her responsibility and it is her decision. He thought nobody should decide what they wear. His comments came after the Congress government in Karnataka allowed students to wear Hijab during competitive exams in October last year.

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Congress Leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday said that women’s choice of clothing including a hijab should be respected and one should not dictate what a person has to wear. Rahul Gandhi was interacting with female students at the Aligarh Muslim University in Uttar Pradesh during his Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra.

During the interaction a girl mentioned the hijab controversy in Karnataka and asked the Congress leader about his views on the same. He said what a woman wears is her responsibility and it is her decision. He thought nobody should decide what they wear. His comments came after the Congress government in Karnataka allowed students to wear Hijab during competitive exams in October last year.

The issue erupted in Januray 2022 when Muslim students at a government pre-university college in Karnataka’s Udupi were denied entry for wearing hijabs, citing a violation of the college’s uniform policy. The incident has sparked widespread protests and counter-protests across the state.

The then BJP government issued an order that made mandatory for students to wear uniforms in educational institutes. The order banned the wearing of hijabs in these settings. This decision was challenged in court, and on March 15, 2022 the decision was upheld by the Haryana High Court.

The court said wearing a hiujab is not an essential religious practice in Islam and as result it does not fall under the protection of Article 25 of the Indian Constitution, which guarantees the fundamental right to freely practice one’s religion.

In October 2022, The Supreme Court pronounced a split verdict on the petitions challenging The Karnataka High Court order which refused to overturn a ban on hijabs in educational institutions in the state. The Top court’s split verdict means the issue will be revisited by a larger bench for final decision.In December last year, Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah announced that his government will withdraw the order banning hijab in schools and colleges in the state .   

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Rajya Sabha election: Samajwadi Party leader Manoj Kumar Pandey steps down as Chief Whip, voting underway

Samajwadi Party MLA Manoj Kumar Pandey on Tuesday resigned from the post of party chief whip amid the voting for 10 Rajya Sabha seats.

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In the midst of voting for the Rajya Sabha elections, Samajwadi Party leader and MLA Manoj Kumar Pandey resigned from his position as the party’s chief whip in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly on Tuesday.

His resignation from the position was announced barely one day after eight Samajwadi Party MLAs failed to show up for a meeting that the party Chief Akhilesh Yadav had called.

Eight BJP candidates and three Samajwadi Party candidates have applied for the 10 Rajya Sabha seats from Uttar Pradesh as the voting has begun.

The main opposition SP and the ruling BJP both have enough members to send seven and three members to the Rajya Sabha, respectively, without opposition. However, since the BJP is fielding an eighth candidate, a competitive race is expected in one of the seats.

The results will be announced by the end of the day.

The BJP has put up seven other candidates which includes, former Union minister RPN Singh, former MP Chaudhary Tejveer Singh, general secretary of the party’s Uttar Pradesh unit Amarpal Maurya, former state minister Sangeeta Balwant (Bind); former MLA Sadhna Singh, and former Agra mayor Naveen Jain.

Actor-turned-MP Jaya Bachchan, former IAS officer Alok Ranjan, and Dalit activist Ramji Lal Suman are the candidates officially nominated by the Samajwadi Party.

In Uttar Pradesh, a candidate needs around 37 first-preference votes to be elected to the Rajya Sabha.

Voting will end at 4 p.m., and counting will start at 5 p.m.

With 252 and 108 members, respectively, the BJP and the SP have the majority of seats in the 403-member state assembly. The SP’s alliance partner, the Congress, holds two seats.

Thirteen seats are held by the BJP ally Apna Dal (Sonelal), six by the NISHAD Party, nine by the RLD, six by the SBSP, two by Jansatta Dal Loktantrik, and one by the BSP. There are presently four open seats.

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