Stalking and stalkers might sound non-injurious, but in the real world, they impact our lives. Let’s see what the punishment for stalking a woman in India is.
Some behaviours might not look like stalking, or if they do, we tend to ignore them because they are not impacting us at the moment. Eventually, to understand what’s happening around us and with us, we need to know the acts and fundamental nature of stalking.
Laws related to stalking vary from state to state, describing different forms. As a general connotation, it is considered a pattern of distinct behaviour that put a specific person in fear. Even after repeated and clear indications of desire for no contact, the perpetrators continue with their actions. This fear affects the targeted person and makes them feel vulnerable and unsafe.
In India, stalking as a criminal offence is a new concept, as, before the 2013 amendment, it was not considered a crime. Being stalked is not a gender-based concept. However, in India, due to the history of crime against women, stalking has become an offence against women only.
Here in this article, we will discuss the laws in India related to stalking against women, how a woman can confront such a situation with the help of legislation, and the punishment for stalking a woman.
What is Stalking in India?
India is not new to the concept of stalking because, in earlier times, it was considered general teasing. No one was aware of the terminology of stalking and its repercussions. However, with the increasing rate of crimes against women, it becomes necessary to introduce a separate law.
After the 2013 amendment, Section 354D came into existence in the Indian Penal Code 1860, where stalking is a bailable and cognizable offence for the first conviction and a bailable and non-cognizable offence for repetitive conviction.
As per section 354D, stalking is:
- Contacting and following a woman or attempting to contact a woman to initiate a conversation even if such a woman has indicated disinterest.
- Monitoring the online use of a woman through electronic communication.
With the advancement of technology, stalking is not limited to physical but also includes cyberstalking.
In Cyberstalking, one uses the internet to access or stalk the victim, primarily through social media platforms. Though there is no special provision for cyberstalking in India, Section 66A of the Information Technology Act 2000 punishes the stalker with imprisonment for up to three years and a fine.
Modes of Stalking in India
Continuously being watched by someone and having no privacy is the worst feeling one can go through. Though the intrinsic nature of stalking is putting a woman in fear because of repetitive behaviour, it can happen in several forms and for several reasons.
Some of the modes of stalking are:
- Following a woman while she is going to the office, school, or other places
- Sitting outside the house
- Sending filthy or unwanted messages through different electronic modes of communication
- Threatening to use photographs to take revenge
- Clicking photographs without consent
- Forceful contact to initiate conversation
- Sending random gifts
- Following your family members
Is Stalking a Woman Illegal?
Something contrary to criminal law or not authorized by law or any statute is termed illegal. Indian Penal code has made stalking a crime, and crime is an act or omission that is illegal.
It is termed a communication crime and follows gender biases because, in India, stalking has been considered against women only.
Section 354D of the Indian Penal code and Section 67A of the Information Technology Act 2000 doesn’t define the term. However, it states what all acts will be considered a part of stalking and its punishment.
Punishment for Stalking a Woman
Repeated or unwanted surveillance by any individual towards a woman leads to harassment and intimidation. Not punishing such acts would persuade the stalkers to continue the behaviour, creating a negative impact on society at large.
There was no punitive punishment for stalking before the rape and murder case of December 16, 2012. After this case, the government made it a punishable offence under the Indian Penal Code.
As per section 354D:
On the first conviction, the person who commits the offence will be punished with imprisonment for up to three years and shall be liable to pay a fine.
On the second conviction, it may extend the imprisonment term to five years, and he shall be liable to pay a fine.
Referring to Section 67A of the Information Technology Act, 2000:
If the offender publishes or transmits material containing sexually explicit acts, the punishment will be a maximum of five years of imprisonment and a fine of 10 lakh rupees. Whereas, for a second conviction, imprisonment can be extended up to seven years with 10 lakh rupees as a fine.
Can I File a Complaint Against Stalking?
Lack of knowledge and awareness is why several crimes against women are getting unreported and never turning out in a complaint.
As per section 2(d) of the Criminal Procedure Code, a complaint about the offence is made in writing or verbally to the magistrate. As a general connotation, making an FIR is also termed a complaint. However, it will still be known as information per the Criminal Procedure code.
There are various ways through which you can file a complaint.
- First Information Report (FIR) is information given to the police, and only cognizable cases are reported in FIR.
- Filling a complaint to the legal department of authorities or workplace
- Complaints with cyber cells
- A complaint can be filled with the National Commission for a woman
Increase in crime rates against a woman; filing and getting them reported becomes pertinent. Various welfare societies and NGOs have smoothened the reporting process so the victim could easily reach out.
With time and technology, stalking has become easier as people can access electronic communication easily. From physical to electronic mediums, the experience of being stalked can be traumatic. Because of these unpleasant experiences, women stopped venturing out in public alone, left their job, or maybe changed their addresses.
Stalking comes under Harassing behaviour; however, not every repeated contact can be termed as being stalked. As per Section 354D, there are certain exceptions where people can perform a certain act that looks like stalking, but it is for certain lawful reasons. Stalkers could be anyone, your close relative or your colleague, and neglecting their behaviour as an affectionate one will only push them to continue.