The Author is Kshama Bharti from Faculty of law,University of Lucknow. She is also working as Sub-editor with Droit Penale.

"Stalking is a crime that can paralyze an otherwise productive person with fear."
                                                                                                                      -  Lisa Madigan

Does anyone have any idea that how many people are stalked by in their neighborhood, outside workplaces, schools, colleges etc., whether you are a student, housewife, professional- It simply does not matter.
Section 354D of IPC defines “stalking”. Any man who  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 monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication commits the offence of stalking. 
The section was added by Criminal Amendment Act (2013) post Delhi gang-rape case. This section takes into account both, the physical stalking and cyberstalking. Many women and men in India get stalked daily. In easy language,this section means harassing someone by following the person around or trying to force any kind of contact by unwanted phone calls, derogatory text messages and emails that disturb the peace of mind of a person or hacking email accounts or conducting any other mode of spying. Whoever monitors the use by a person of the Internet, email or any other form of electronic communication that results in a fear of violence, or interference with the mental peace of such person, commits the offence of stalking. Any sort of misuse of electronic communication to harass someone and hacking into someone’s email account would be a criminal offence as well. Stalking is a criminal offence.

Hence,even after clear indication of disinterest of women, if she is followed by a man either in person or through the electronic medium ( your mobile phone, computer, internet on Facebook and other social networking sites,closed-circuit TV (CCTV) cameras and Global Positioning System (GPS) devices) then he is guilty of the offence of stalking . A stalker can be someone you know, a past boyfriend or girlfriend or a stranger. it is not correct, and you have every right to seek help and support to stay safe and be free of harassment.  

According to the survey, in 2018 India reported a stalking case in every 55 min.The number of stalking cases reported has been increasing.6,266 in 2015, 7,190 in 2016 and 8,145 in 2017. The crime rate reported per 100,000 women  has also seen a rise. It increased from 0.8 in 2014 to 1.5 in 2018.This means that the law is not gender neutral and the recourse is only for the woman.

Understanding the offence of Stalking  
The crime of stalking is not a standalone crime and is of a nature where many other offences in the law are interlinked. A woman who is stalked, is not only being mentally harassed, she may be sexually harassed, eve teased and her modesty may also be outraged. 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. This points to the state of investigation of cases by the Police, where lack of understanding of the law prevents successful prosecution at the future stage, where evidence may exist. Perhaps Bollywood has a role to play here, making stalking seem as harmless fun which, in the film Raanjhanaa, eventually developed into love between the stalker and the victim. This toxic culture now pervades our society and inevitably affects our perception of the offence itselfThe judgment of the Orissa High Court in Kalandi Charan Lenka Vs. State of Orissa  (2017). In this case, the accused had proposed to marry the victim and when the marriage could not be finalized, he had transmitted obscene letters and scandalous mail and even published pamphlets denigrating the character of the victim. Through the obscene and vulgar mails and creation of the fake Facebook Account in the name of the victim girl, the accused exhibited his intention to intimidate her with the purpose of exploiting her sexually. Even when the girl had changed her place of study because of the sexual harassment, the accused had followed her, only to harass her, both  online and offline.The Cyber Cell of the Crime Branch had investigated the same and the High Court held that the accused was prima facie liable for offences under Section 354A, for sexual harassment, 354D for online stalking under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, Section 66-C for identity theft, Section 66-D for Impersonation and Section 67 and 67 for transmitting obscene and sexually explicit material online. So far however, successful prosecutions under the provisions have not been seen in appellate forums. The beginning of a successful prosecution is by first framing charges under the relevant sections.
                  A leading case, Priya Matoo young law student, her stalker Santosh Singh, the son of a former IPS officer, raped her and murdered her in her Vasant Kunj home. Mattoo pleaded with police, but nothing happened. Multiple complaints lodged with Vasant Kunj and RK Puram police in February and August 1995 forced Singh to give "police undertakings but they were not disincentive. Mattoo was alone at home on January 23, 1996, when she was raped by Singh and then killed. Afterwards the case was transferred to CBI in 1996. The trial court convicted Singh in December 1999, giving him the benefit of doubt. The high court ruled and awarded him the death penalty. He was later granted life imprisonment by Supreme Court in December 2010. And another  and most important Landmark judgment  Vishaka v State of Rajasthan(1997) discussing sexual harassment at workplace.In Bhubaneswar Case, the Xavier Institute of management lodged a cybercrime complaint with the police in December 2004 that students & staffs of this institution are getting numerous obscene electronic mails. The students were also afraid of the online hacking, spamming & threatening. Police appointed technical experts to investigate & examine the matter. At first these were considered to be spam but later on students were over flooded with obscene mails & continuous sexual harassment through internet. At that time Bhubaneswar Police were weak to fight against cybercrimes as they were not trained enough to tackle the issue. In case Raju Iyer v. Jawahar Lal Nehru University, the respondent was found guilty of sexual harassment of the petitioner and have consequently imposed the penalty of compulsory retirement. He had sent 2 emails on 11.4.2008 and 12.4.2008 which carried vulgar and filthy contents & were graphic in nature which explicitly ask for oral sexual favours. He also made unnecessary phone calls at untimely hours to harass her in derogatory languages. The disciplinary committee of the university imposed the penalty of compulsory retirement against which the respondent filed an appeal in the High Court of Delhi. But the court upheld the disciplinary actions of the university and dismissed his petition.

The 2013 amendment which resulted in Section 354 D of IPC, does not address all aspects of cyber stalking. There is no attempt on the part of the legislation to define the term cyber stalking or to explain what amounts to monitoring the use of any electronic communication.amendment is a step in the right direction to tackle the issue of cyber stalking, but it is wholly incompetent It leaves too much burden on the Judiciary to interpret and reinterpret the law to suit the circumstances of each case and Section 354D alone cannot ensure effective justice to the victims .In my opinion,  stalking law in India has a lot of drawbacks to overcome, to become an efficient piece of legislation.


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