Make stalking gender-neutral crime: Pvt Bill in RS

Make stalking gender-neutral crime: Pvt Bill in RS

At present, only the stalking of women is punishable and it is a bailable offence - an offender can get bail from the police station itself.

A private members bill in the Rajya Sabha has sought to make stalking a gender-neutral crime and a non-bailable offence.

Congress MP Husain Dalwai suggested in the bill introduced by him on Friday that men who face such instances live in "fear and distress" and do not have legal recourse. He also suggested that the offence should be non-bailable as the accused get bail easily and are "left free to repeat the offence".

Dalwai has suggested an amendment to Section 354(D) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and First Schedule of Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), 1973, in his Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2018.

At present, only the stalking of women is punishable and it is a bailable offence - an offender can get bail from the police station itself.

In the amendment to the IPC, Dalwai suggested that the word woman be replaced by "person" so that offences against men could be included. The bill also wants to include "watching or spying" on a person for reasons other than crime detection and prevention under the ambit of the law.

Year Number of stalking cases Conviction rate
          2014                          4,699                 34.8%
          2015                          6,266                 26.4%
          2016                          7190                 24.6%

* Arrests between 2014 and 2016 – 20,761

Pointing out that a Parliamentary Standing Committee and Justice J S Verma Commission have suggested making stalking gender-neutral, Dalwai said, "Rising cases of stalking against men emphasises the need for making stalking a gender-neutral offence."

By amending the criminal law, the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Bill said, India will join the league of developed nations like Germany and UK that have enacted comprehensive laws with strict punishment for stalking.

It also noted that crimes against women violate their personal liberty. "The status of stalking as an offence is deficient since it is a bailable offence under the CrPC. This allows the accused to cause further harm to the victim in the absence of any judicial supervision. As a result, in several instances, the victims face prolonged harassment from their stalkers with an increased likelihood of further sexual, physical and emotional harm."

"Despite the police's attempt to take the offence seriously, the accused can easily get bail and be left free to repeat the offence. The probability of the same is extremely high due to the very nature of the offence - repeated attempts to establish contact with the victim," it added.

According to the bill, any person who follows or contacts a person to "foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest" by the other party or monitors the use by a person of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication will come under the ambit of the penal provisions.

A first time offender should be jailed for up to three years while a repeat offender is proposed to have a jail term of up to five years.

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