Shruti Haasan faced it, Sunny Leone faced it, heck even Kangana Ranaut faced it. Cyber stalking is something taken pretty lightly yet it is a serious crime like any other. We all have been pestered online at some time or the other in our lives but sometimes certain lines are crossed and from a harmless ‘fraandship request’ or a professional chat, it can turn into cyber stalking. The law is definitely on the side of the victim but it is better to arm yourself with the knowledge of the sections, acts and laws pertaining to the crime of cyber stalking to nip the problem in the bud or take stringent action if things go out of hand. HerZindagi talked to legal expert Indrani Lahiri of Kochhar & Co. about this and here’s what she had to share.
Section 354D of the IPC which was introduced by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 deals with stalking and provides inter-alia that :
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, or watches or spies on a person in a manner that results in a fear of violence or serious alarm or distress in the mind of such person, or interferes with the mental peace of such person, commits the offence of stalking
The IPC provides for certain exceptions, which include that if the person can prove that in the given circumstances, his conduct was reasonable and justified then it shall not amount to stalking
- First conviction - imprisonment for a term of upto 3 years and fine
- Second or subsequent conviction - imprisonment for a term of upto 5 years and fine
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Besides the above, if cyber stalking involves sexual harassment, the following sections could also be applicable, says Indrani:
- Section 354A of IPC – provides for punishment for offence of sexual harassment with 3 years of imprisonment and/or fine.
- Section 354C of the IPC - criminalises the offence of Voyeurism - capturing the image of a woman engaging in a private act, and/or disseminating said image, without her consent. The section prescribes 3 years of imprisonment for the first conviction and 7 years of imprisonment on second conviction along with fine.
- Section 509 of IPC comes to rescue if a person utters any word or makes any sound or gesture, intending that such word, sound or gesture be heard or seen by a woman and insult her modesty - punishable with one-year imprisonment and/or fine.
- Section 503 of the IPC - punishes criminal intimidation as threats made to any person with injury to her reputation, either in order to cause alarm to her, or to make her change her course of action regarding anything she would otherwise do/not do. The offence is punishable with imprisonment which may extend to two years, and/or fine.
- Section 507 of the IPC - punishes criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication with a term which may extend to two years of imprisonment.
- Section 228A of the IPC - Posting of images or videos of rape victims is punishable with imprisonment which may extend to two years and fine under section 228A of IPC. Therefore, printing or publishing any matter which may make known the identity of a rape victim would be punishable.
Depending on the facts of the case, the victim can also file a case of defamation under Section 499, IPC against the offender, Indrani says.
The Information Technology Act
- Section 72 of the IT Act is used to deal with the offence of stalking which provides inter-alia that any person who has secured access to any electronic record, book, register, correspondence, information, document or other material without the consent of the person concerned discloses such electronic record, book, register, correspondence, information, document or other material to any other person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both.
- Section 67 prohibits and punishes with imprisonment extending up to three years and fine for the first conviction and to five years and fine upon second conviction for the publication, transmission and causing of transmission of obscene content.
- Section 67A provides inter-alia that the publication, transmission or causing of transmission of ‘sexually explicit act’ is punishable with imprisonment extending up to five years and fine for first conviction and to seven years and fine upon second conviction.
If you or anyone you know is being stalked online then don’t hesitate to contact the National Commission For Women or the women’s helplines in your city. To read more about women’s issues, women’s safety laws and self defense techniques, keep watching this space.