Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi announced on Twitter yesterday that those applying for an Indian visa must declare their criminal records. This step is an attempt by the Government of India to stop travelling child sex offenders (TCSO) from entering the country.
Often, these criminal elements travel from one country to another with the intent of sexually abusing vulnerable children, who are usually from lower income groups, orphanages and observation homes.
Most recently, Paul Dean, an Australian national, was convicted by a local court in Vishakhapatnam for sexually abusing children with physical disabilities and underprivileged backgrounds during his 30-year stint in India, according to The News Minute. Masquerading as a priest, a charity worker and even a doctor, Dean would regularly abuse these children.
Although the case against him was filed way back in 2001, Dean has not spent a day in prison and been given bail by the Andhra Pradesh High Court. There are no reports of his present whereabouts in the public domain.
Other child abusers who have fallen through the cracks of our system are Eric Martin, a French national and wanted felon for sexually assaulting nine minor girls in his home country. After fleeing in 2000, he was finally arrested in Chennai a decade later.
In a series of Tweets, the minister said, “I am very pleased to inform you that our request to revise the Visa Application process for foreign nationals travelling to India to declare any criminal record, in view of prevention of sexual abuse of children, has been accepted.
“It has now been decided that an appropriate questionnaire & a declaration will be incorporated in the visa application form which will have to be filled up by visa applicants/ foreign nationals.
“I am thankful to Hon’ble HM Shri @rajnathsingh ji for considering my request, which was based on complaints of serial child sexual abuse offenders managing to visit India. This step will certainly be a strong deterrent for perpetrators of such heinous crimes.”
It is quite bizarre that India required no declaration of criminal records in the visa application process for foreign nationals so far.
However, the new visa regulations will ease the process of deportation. With this move, India has plugged a major gap through which TCSOs would fall through.
Moreover, if a foreign national is found lying about not having a criminal record when applying for an Indian visa, they can now suffer immediate penalties.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)