CYBER STALKING IN INDIA
India has not only bagged one of the top ranks for devouring the highest number of internet users, but we also ace the statistics of global sexual harassment. The harassment faced by women online mirrors the image of harassment faced by them in the physical world. A survey conducted by Feminism in India underscored that 50% of women in major cities of India have faced online abuse. What is more striking is that instances of cyberstalking against men are on a surge. Experts have opined that the ratio is 50:50 vis-a-vis the instances of cyberstalking faced by men and women.
What Is Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking is an activity in which a person or abuser or stalker stalks or harass another person or victim by misusing the internet or electronic media. In cyberstalking a stalker may contact a person either by an email, social media, messaging apps or other online media. To harass a person a stalker may post messages, pictures or information online about a person. Some may also track location or online activities.
Though cyberstalkers do not stalk the aggrieved person physically but they do commit this offence digitally. The cyberstalkers do adopt all types of technological and digital instruments assault but it is an emotional assault and harassment which is carried out by using electronic media. However, the provisions provided to it are different than real-life situations.
Online Harassment under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013
Online harassment also encompasses sexual harassment which is defined under section 2(n) of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013 has unwelcome
• physical contact and advances; or
• a demand or request for sexual favours; or
• making sexually colored remarks; or
• showing pornography; or
• any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature;
What can constitute online harassment?
• Public actions or threats
• False accusations of defamatory nature
• Hacking or vandalising the sites of the victim
• Sexual remarks
• Publish materials so as to defame a person
• Personally targeting the victims of crime
• Ridicule or humiliate a person in order to gang up against him
Provisions for Cyberstalking In India
Cyberstalking is a serious crime worldwide and the number of cases of it goes on increasing every year. In India, a large percentage of cases filed against cyberstalking are by women. To deal with the cyberstalking in India following provisions are available:
• Information Technology Act, 2000 – When a person publishes or sends salacious material via electronic media is to be charged under Section 67 of theAct. Data protection is very important to prevent cyberstalking which is easily leaked by hackers. For data protection, IT Amendment Act, Section 43A has been included the provision for the inclusion of a Body Corporate. If a firm or a company transmits sensitive information about a person, according to the act such body corporate will be liable to pay the damages by compensation. Under Section 67 of the Act, when a stalker sends or posts any obscene content to the victim via electronic media then they will be liable to punish with 5 years of jail and Rs. 1 Lacs fine. If the incidence repeats then they will be liable to punish with 10 years of jail and Rs. 2 Lacs fine. As per the provision provided in the law, when a stalker misuses victim’s personal information to post an obscene message or comment on any electronic media, then this action is punishable for defaming and harming a person’s reputation with imprisonment of 2 years, fine or both.
• The criminal law (Amendment) Act, 2013 – According to the act, Stalking is an offence under Section 354D of the IPC (Indian Penal Code). When a man is trying to communicate with a woman without her interest over the internet via email, instant messages or any other electronic communication is the offence of stalking.
Racism is also a kind of cyberstalking.
How to lodge a complaint
The Information Technology Act provides that notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, any police officer, not below the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police, or any other officer of the Central Government or a State Government authorised by the Central Government in this behalf may enter any public place and search and arrest without warrant any person found therein who is reasonably suspected or having committed or of committing or of being about to commit any offence under this Act. (Section 80)
Cyber crimes do not have a jurisdiction as these crimes committed without any barrier of boundaries. So, you can report a cyber crime to the cybercrime units of any city irrespective of the place where it was committed.
• Cyber Cells: Cyber Cells have been established to provide redressal to the victims of cybercrime. These cells function as a part of the criminal investigation department and specifically deal with internet related criminal activity. If you do not a cyber cell at your place of residence, then you can file an F.I.R in a local police station. You can also approach the commissioner or the judicial magistrate of your city, if by any reason you are unable to file an F.I.R. Any police station is bound to register an F.I.R., irrespective of its jurisdiction.
• Online Grievance Redressal: Police is the most notorious law enforcement agency in India when it comes to dealing with women victims. Even when women have easy access to a police station, they hesitate in reporting the incident to them, under the fear of being harassed and being made to suffer additional ordeal. As a result, such crimes committed against women remain swept under the rug and women continue to bear the brunt of harassment. So, women who do not want to come out in the open can file a complaint against stalking at the National Commission for Women. The Commission takes up the matter with the police and expedites the investigation. In cases of serious offences, the commission can set up an inquiry committee to probe into the matter and conduct spot inquiry, collect evidence, and examine witnesses, summon accused and police records, etc to further the investigation.
• Report to the websites: Most of the social media websites where users make their accounts provide a reporting mechanism. These websites are obliged under the IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011 to act within 36 hours to disable information related to offending content. The intermediary shall have to preserve such information and associated records for at least ninety days for investigation purposes. The affected person can bring to the knowledge of the intermediary, any offending content which is hosted, stored, or published on his computer system, in writing or through email signed with electronic signature.
• Report to CERT: The Information Technology Amendment Act 2008 has designated the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-IN) as the national nodal agency for tackling the issues occurring in tow with computer security threats. They issue guidelines on the procedure, prevention, reporting, and response to cyber incidents, among other functions.
To deal with the issue of cyberstalking, there are few provisions are provided but not any specific law is available. The Government needs to think about the stalking law for effective prevention from cyberstalking. However, people also need to be aware of their activities and sharing information with others. They require being extra careful about privacy. Drafted by Sourav Sharma, Associate at Vidhiśāstras-Advocates & Solicitors.