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This article is written by Aadarsh Kumar Shrivastava, a BA LLB student from Government New Law College, Indore. In this article, the author describes the stalking laws prevalent in India and how are they implemented.

Introduction

Crime is an act or an omission which is universal or we can say it is in every bit of society and knowingly and unknowingly most part of the society is involved in it. To understand the crime there is no any universally accepted definition but there are different views of jurists and philosophers, but from a legal and legislative perspective – A crime is an act or omission which is illegal or which is against the law, and the wrongdoer is liable for punishment. The prosecution of case is started by state. There are innumerable types and classes of crimes and is continuously increasing. Stalking is one of them and was added in criminal laws of India after 2013 Criminal Amendment Act passed by the Justice Verma Committee due to the increasing number of crimes against modesty of women in society. Stalking is communication crime and it should not be gender biased but in our country stalking is held only against the women’s. In general anyone can be stalked and can stalk without even knowing most of the times, because in our society following someone, calling someone, asking someone, staring at someone, etc is not accepted as a crime until a legal action is not taken against him/her.

Meaning and Definition

Stalking is defined in Indian Penal code under section 354D but firstly it can be understood through-

  • Continuous and repeated following someone with ill intention of harming or causing fear to the person followed is said to be stalking. 
  • A crime of engaging in a course of conduct directed at a person that serves no legitimate purpose and seriously alarms, annoys, or intimidates that person.           

-Merriam Webster 

  • The crime of illegally following and watching someone over a period of time.

-Cambridge Dictionary

  • Stalking is the wilful, malicious, and repeated following or harassing of another person that threatens his or her safety.

– Melroy and Gothard

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Stalking in India

Before the amendment in criminal laws there was no direct inclusion of the term stalking in penal law of India. The stalking was covered under category of just harassment such as voyeurism, sexual harassment against women and it was covered under Section 354 and Section 509 for using words or gestures to insult a woman’s modesty. Due to the shortcomings in the essentials of section 354 and section 509 of IPC, in most of the cases the wrongdoer moves freely from the court because it is hard to proof the certain essential conditions to constitute a crime-

  1. The attack must be against a woman,
  2. The offender must have used excessive force, 
  3. The modesty of women should be offended.

Therefore, it was need for emergence of the separate law for stalking in India. 

The act of stalking as of today after the criminal amendment act 2013, is a cognizable, bailable and non compoundable offence with punishment- 

  1. up to three years and fine for the first conviction 
  2. up to five years and fine for the repetition.

According to Section 354 D of Indian Penal Code, Stalking means and includes-

(1) Any man who —

(i) follows a woman and contacts, or attempts to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman; or 

(ii) monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication, commits the offence of stalking:

Provided that such conduct shall not amount to stalking if the man who pursued it proves that—

(i) it was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime and the man accused of stalking had been entrusted with the responsibility of prevention and detection of crime by the State; or 

(ii) it was pursued under any law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any law; or 

(iii) in the particular circumstances such conduct was reasonable and justified. 

(2) Whoever commits the offence of stalking shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term 

  1. which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine; 
  2. and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine

According to the national crime records bureau report 2018, there are 9,450 cases of stalking was reported in India. This means on an average there is one case of stalking in every 55 minutes. 

Modes of stalking in India 

For constitution of crime of stalking, there is no any particular mode but innumerable options and ways through which one can stalk, some of them are as follows-   

  1. Following the girl;
  2. Sending unwanted and filthy letters and phone calls;
  3. Trying to communicate forcefully;
  4. Taking Photographs;
  5. Abuse and harass parents and friends;
  6. Physical assault and Threaten to physical assault;
  7. Threaten to sexual assault;
  8. Visited home for unnecessary purposes and stood outside home;
  9. Sending presents; 
  10. Spread rumors; 
  11. Cyber Stalking through social media and different apps.

Types of stalkers-

  • Rejected stalker– those who follow someone in order to take revenge from them due to personal grudges such as divorce, separation, etc.
  • Resentful stalkers– those who stalk someone in order to distress the victim due to anger and past hatred.
  • Heroic Stalkers– those who wish to make love, relationship, intimacy, etc from victim and they believe to be that they can get love from girl if they follow her.
  • Predatory stalkers– those who follow the victims in order to make plans for the attack and sexual harassment on the victim.

Impact of Stalking

Impact of stalking on the victim is different and mostly it is severe and psychologically traumatic for many victims who are emotionally weak. Most of the victims are suffering from mental health disorders and they feel vulnerable, out of control, stressed, and anxious most of the time and may experience a loss of trust, long-term emotions from even closed ones and it leads to anxiety, bipolar disorders, etc and resulted in all time anger and stress. In most of the conditions the victims change their jobs, move location, have secret telephone numbers, and started carrying weapons or firearms to protect themselves. 

According to report of Karuppannan JAISHANKAR Puthisigamani KOSALAI captioned as Victims of Stalking in India: A Study of Girl College Students in Tirunelveli City the impact on victims, are as follows-

As far as physical impact is concerned half (50%) of the respondents did not have any impact. Half (50%) others had physical impact and 70% of the respondents felt. Anger as an emotional effect of stalking topped with 19.3%.

In India the stalking and harassing is mostly common in youth and in teenagers and the problem isn’t that stalking is taught in schools or homes but it is the result of influence from films, movies and series as they are watching that to follow a girl or boy or to make comments or to show love & care or to send presents or trying to be intimate,etc are negative content which is being promoted as heroic gesture. In movies such as Tere Naam, Raanjhanaa, Ae Dil Hain Mushkil, Jab harry met sejal, Rehna Hai Tere Dil mein, etc the villains of the movie created a heroic misconception into the minds of youth. Recently in the matter of BOYS LOCKER ROOM CHAT case a group was created by the students on Instagram of approx age 16 to 18 years and are of and from reputed family and schools of south delhi where it was alleged that they were making sexually colored remarks on girls and stalking them by capturing and sending the photographs of minor girls online on that group, similarly on the SNAPCHAT STORY case also, a mastermind girl was traced after enquiry where she created a page to stalk boys and girls and make sexually colored remarks over them and later on blame a boy for making these comments, who was unaware. so it is can be 

Legal Pronouncements for Stalking

It is important that the cases of stalking should be dealt with more seriously and it should be the prime concern of state and reforming authorities to encourage the victims to share it with their family and loved ones and to take help of police by reporting of such kind of offences if anyone is stalking and not to suffer alone and the police needs to be alert, careful while dealing with such matters and not to deter the victim by asking harassing questions.

Supreme Court in the case of Vishaka v State of Rajasthan(1997) discussing sexual harassment at workplace which is read with an important judgment of supreme court in the matter of Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A.K. Chopra (1999) stated that every act of sexual harassment resulted in violation of the fundamental right of women workers mentioned under article 14, 19, 21 of Indian Constitution which broadened the subject’s jurisprudence in service law.

In 2012, the Supreme Court in its judgment of Inspector General of Police v. S. Samuthiram (1999) set out eight guidelines to curb eve teasing. The Court discussed the importance of taking up grievances of victim and bystander for eve teasing in public places such as public transportation, educational institutions, cinema theaters, etc.

In one of a leading case of stalking and rape titled PRIYA MATOO CASE where a young law student, was stalked by stalker Mr Santosh Singh, son of a former IPS officer, raped her and murdered her in her home at Vasant Kunj Delhi. Multiple complaints filed against the culprit in Vasant Kunj and RK Puram police station. Mattoo was alone at home on January 23, 1996, when she was raped by Santosh and then killed. Afterwards the case was transferred to CBI in 1996. The high court awarded him the death penalty which was later granted life imprisonment by Supreme Court in December 2010.

In 2016, the Bombay High Court in Shri Deu Baju Bodake v The State of Maharashtra looked into a case of suicide by a woman who claimed that the reason for her suicide was the constant harassment and stalking done by the accused. The accused would always stalk her during work and insist upon getting married to her. The High Court held that the charges under Section 354D ought to have been recorded in addition to the charge for abetment to suicide.

How to Make Complaint against Stalking?

  • To lodge FIR directly in the nearest police station
  • To make written complaint against the stalker to authorities of the workplace or to legal cells created by the institution or corporation.
  • To make complaints in Cyber Cells which is established to register the cases and to provide expeditious redressal to the victims of cybercrime which specifically deal with internet related criminal activity. 
  • To make complaints in Online Grievance Redressal where the women who do not want to come out in the light to lodge FIR, they can file a complaint against stalking at the National Commission for Women. The Commission thereafter deals with local police and start looking up into the matter. 
  • To report to the websites and apps as most of the social media websites such as Instagram, Whatsapp, etc. provides options for reporting the mischievous and unlawful activities of stalking and harassments. These websites are obliged under Intermediary Guidelines Rules, 2011 to act within 36 hours to disable information related to offending content. 

Why Stalking Laws are biased for Women?

In India stalking is the offence which is gender biased and is deemed that the stalking is done by the males only and women’s are crystal clear because the legislature has made the provision of section354D very clear that Any man who— 

  1. follows a woman and contacts, or attempts to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman
  2.  or monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication, commits the offence of stalking:   

So it can be an inference that the stalking is a crime only against women’s and in the abovementioned case of Snapchat Story case the police officers of delhi has not filed any FIR against the girl and she walked freely where the officer stated that “She is a girl and made a plan to make a forged account in order to find out the reaction of boys and suggested to sexually exploit herself and it is not any crime”.

It is just an example but there are lakhs of cases where the males are victim of sexual harassment and especially for stalking but there cases and stories are underreported and no action is ever taken by the authorities and it is too a reason, why males are committing suicide.

Conclusion

In India, stalking is very common and can either be done physically or through electronic mediums in different modes as elaborated above, which constitutes to a criminal offence with an imprisonment of min. 3 years.

In India the working professional, students, housewife and many women get stalked on regular basis without even knowing and not only the women’s but also the men’s. And stalking and harassing is not treated as serious crime and due to the fear of being stalked many women and girls avoid getting out of their house. In order to avoid stalking and attracting unwanted distress the women are forced to dress so called “modestly” and to be inside the houses before sunset and to keep professional and limited relations from colleagues, neighbors, and other persons so that they don’t attract unwanted attention. Even after the 73 years of independence women’s are still caged. 

References

1. Vishaka v State of Rajasthan(1997) (AIR 1997 SUPREME COURT 3011)

2. Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A.K. Chopra (1999 Inspector General of Police v. S. Samuthiram (1999) (2013) 1 SCC 598

3. PRIYA MATOO CASE ( 2010)9SCC747  

4. https://www.thebetterindia.com/45671/stalking-india-women-complaint-online/

5. https://www.soolegal.com/roar/introduction-of-stalking-into-indian-legal-regime

6. https://www.business-standard.com/article/politics/at-one-incident-every-55-minutes-india-s-stalking-       cases-doubled-in-4-years-120022300837_1.html

 


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