This article is written by Mayank Labh, a student of NALSAR, Hyderabad.
Stalking v. Cyber Stalking
India is a very diverse country. We have different religions, different cultures, different languages and so on. But despite all our differences, it seems to us that we are nation bound together by a love of movies that legitimise, normalize even romanticise stalkers. No wonder one could see many Dhanush, many Russol stalking their “lovers” on the roads and when their romantic overtures are rejected instances like acid attack, rape, sexual harassment soon follow.
But, this is 21st century; everything is getting advanced, getting more complex and all. And Stalking is not an exception to this trend for old problems and nuisances often find their way and are reborn and reconstructed in such a way that new medium become the sites for such problems.
It is true that Cyber Stalking- the persistent use of the internet, e-mail, social networks, instant messaging or related digital devices to irritate, badger or threaten women(Sorry men, not for you!) — is growing. It commonly involves nasty e-mails, post or text, unwanted phone calls, damage to property, loitering and following. Some stalkers threaten extreme violence, which a smaller number carry out.
One of the instances is that a guy created fake profiles of a woman to defame her. He has been making obscene calls and sending threat mails. Another example is of a guy who keeps tagging a girl in photographs which show her in scantily clad clothes.( “Cyber stalker posts morphed pics of girl and mother on FB”).
How Cyber-Stalking Harms
It can affect you in many ways. It may affect the career, social life and emotional well-being. It may make women “humiliated, helpless and abused.” The problem with the Cyber-Staking problem is that it is woefully under-reported. One of the reasons is the same old stigma and prejudices attached with any crime which is sexual in nature. Another reason is the anonymous nature of the stalkers and it becomes more and more difficult to track them up. Technical dodges give stalkers more adaptability and scope for committing such crimes and running away scot-free. Special software allows them to send untraceable e-mails from disguised web addresses. Moreover, it is difficult for investigators to monitor instant messaging.
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Beware Cyber-Stalkers, Punishment awaits for you!
The problem with the cyber-stalking law is that it is not keeping up its pace with the intensive and innovative ways in which cyber-stalking happens. Prior to February 2013 amendment, there were no specific laws dealing with it. But now India can boast of such law after the Criminal Law amendment, 2013 by Indian Law.
Section 354(D): Under Section 354(d)if any person follows a woman and tries to contact with her in order to foster personal interaction despite the woman’s disinclination then he is committing stalking.
Secondly, if a person monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication, he commits the offence of stalking.
So, for example, There is Mr. M who was following Mrs. Y on Twitter but was blocked for some reasons. He made an another account and followed her and commented on the posts of Mrs.Y. He would be liable, prima facie, under section 354(D) for it fulfils the condition that he was monitoring her since dictionary meaning of it is to “observe and check the progress or quality of (something) over a period of time”.
However, if that particular person is stalking for such particular reasons then he won’t be liable under section 354(D).
- i) If it was done for preventing or detecting crimes and if the man doing it was entrusted with the responsibility by the State. So, an individual like Doga can’t justify cyber-stalking for the public good under this clause!
- ii) If it was imposed by the law to do such things.
iii) If it was just and reasonable to do so.
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Whoever commits the offence shall be punished for an imprisonment up to three years on first conviction and on a second or subsequent conviction the imprisonment could extend up to five years. In each case, the offender shall also be liable to pay the fine.
How to Report Cyber-Stalking in India
- One must register a written complaint to her immediate cyber-cell in the city. In case of non-availability of cyber-cells in the city, one can file a F.I.R. in the local police station.
- In case of non-acceptance of your complaint, one can always refer your complaint to the commissioner or judicial magistrate of the city.
- Legal Assistance: If a woman approaches to the police station with an allegation of cyber-stalking she is entitled to legal counsel to help her file a case.
- Privacy: The victim’s statement would be taken down in private. Often the cyber police station has women police officers/constables who can help the complainant to file a complaint.
Click here to learn more about how to file a cyber complaint in India.
What could be done
Given that Cyber-Stalking is not very known to the people and people are not aware of the rights which they have it is pertinent to organize “Stalking Awareness” month as it happens in America.
With awareness comes a sense of caution. So, users can exercise caution at least by maintaining vigilance over their computers or any other device which have internet access. One must not share the password with others and must change it as often as he can.
Secondly, one may always make an online search as to what information is available on the internet about her and her family.
Thirdly, if one thinks that if her daily activities is tracked by someone who is using spyware software and are afraid then she must make sure that she is seeking help from a public computer.
Fourthly, One should use good, updated security software to stave off any spyware getting into your computer or any such devices.
As I have already mentioned that it is really difficult to track down the perpetrators of crime like Greater use of voluntary disclosure of information about suspected stalkers by agreement with mobile-phone companies and ISPs.
So, that’s all for Cyber-Staking. Let there be untrammelled access to the limitless horizon of the internet without any sense of fear.
. Businessline, 6th June, 2014, When a woman says no.
 The Economist, 20th April 2011, Creepy Crwalies.
 Times of India,13th November 2014, Cyber stalker posts morphed pics of girl and mother on FB.
 Supra, note 2.
 Indian Kanoon.
 All the informations are collected after the perusal of Wikipedia, Cyber Cell Branch of Mumbai, Delhi and from the website HALTABUSE