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TN goonda bill to check sex crimes

Jayalalithaa

Chennai, Aug. 11: The Tamil Nadu government has introduced a bill that seeks to bring sexual offenders and cyber criminals under the Goondas Act, which allows preventive detention up to a year.

The Goondas Act, passed by the MGR government in 1982, was targeted at repeat offenders to curb activities like robbery, extortion, bootlegging and drug trafficking.

The scope of the law was expanded by chief minister Jayalalithaa during an earlier stint in 2001 to cover other crimes such as illegal sand mining and video piracy.

This time, the move to include sexual offenders has been prompted by the Delhi rape-and-murder case of 2012. “Since the chief minister had announced a 13-point charter to tackle sexual crimes after the Nirbhaya case which included preventive detention, the Goondas Act is being amended for the purpose,” said a senior official.

Under the bill, those who have been convicted of sexual or cyber crimes once, but have not committed any offence after that, can be picked up and detained up to a year.

“It will not be meaningful to wait for habitual commission of offences by a person before resorting to preventive detention…Hence, there is a need for a provision for preventive detention of such persons (to stop an) offence which has the propensity to disturb public order,” the amendment bill states.

The bill comes against the backdrop of law and order problems triggered by sexual assaults, especially on girl children, and police requests for preventive detention as a deterrent.

A senior officer explained the detention clause and the potential suspects it would cover. “Preventive detention can happen only after an accused has been convicted and has served the sentence for the first offence. The threat of detention under the Goondas Act would hang over his head after that, and would deter him from committing such a crime again. Sexual offenders are usually repeat offenders and the Goondas Act is aimed at stopping them in their tracks after the first offence.”

In case of cyber criminals, such checks were deemed necessary after several instances of phishing — the practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers online.

Other Web offences the Jayalalithaa government hopes to fight with the provision include online threats, obnoxious mails and text messages to government offices and individuals, blackmailing women by posting digitally modified pictures and posting of indecent children’s photos by paedophiles.

“A few years ago, Parliament had to be vacated after an email threatening a blast was sent from Tirunelveli in Tamil Nadu. Emails and text messages are used by terrorists,” another officer said. Cyber crimes pose a threat to internal security, the bill states.