Anti Stalking Bill- #NoBail4Stalkers, Make Stalking Non Bailable

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There have been several cases in Delhi and the rest of the country that emphasise the need to make stalking a non – bailable offence:

  • In September 2016, a 22 year old school teacher, Karuna, was stabbed by a man whose marriage proposal she had rejected in North Delhi’s Burari area. The police had asked Karuna and her attacker to compromise and stop following her. No official case was filed.
  • In September 2016, Laxmi was stabbed to death by her stalker. She had reported his crime to the police and registered a complaint under section 354D of the Indian Penal Code. He was out on bail when he took Laxmi’s life.
  • In April 2017, 50-year-old Khusiram was stabbed almost 20 times and dies on the spot in South Delhi’s Amar Colony. His murderer wanted Khusiram’s daughter to withdraw the stalking complaint she had filed against him. While out on bail he stabbed Khusiram.
  • Meenakshi, a teenage girl, was stabbed to death by a man in Central Delhi that had been stalking her for years. Her family claims they filed an FIR with the police but the police deny any such report.
  • A woman was stabbed to death by her stalker in East Delhi. The stalker got out on bail and attacked her in a crowded market place. 

In 2014, nearly 4,700 cases of stalking were reported. This jumped to 6,300 in 2015, a 33% increase. In 2016, nearly 7,200 cases were reported. Given that awareness about the offence is still nascent and society still tends to view stalking as not too serious an offence, such high numbers, with increases every year, indicate how prevalent the offence of stalking is.

 Pendency rates for trials are high. In 2016, 13449 cases were pending trial for stalking out of which trial was completed in only 1534 cases i.e. 11.4%. This leaves a huge backlog of trials to be carried forward into the new year.

 In terms of the number of cases reported each year, only 3% in 2014, 5% in 2015 and 5% in 2016 resulted in convictions. In terms of trials, the conviction rate was 35% in 2014, but dropped to 26% in 2015 and was 26.4% in 2016.

 The NCRB’s statistics show that of the 9,800 stalking cases investigated by the police in the year, only 215 were found by them to be false. This comes out to only 2.1% of all cases investigated in the year – which is below the average percentage of false cases per crimes investigated across the country: 2.5%.

 This proposal is being presented to Parliamentarians because it is the responsibility of the Indian State to ensure that women are protected from sexual harassment and assault.

Noting that such protection was guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution as essential to safety and dignity, the Supreme Court of India in the case of Vishakha v State of Rajasthan 1 held that the “primary responsibility for ensuring such safety and dignity through suitable legislation, and the creation of a mechanism for its enforcement, is of the legislature and the executive.”

 The government is therefore obliged to ensure that any of its legislative provisions relating to stalking – in this case the provisions of the IPC and the CrPC relating to the substance and procedure of the offence - are effective in fulfilling the State’s duty to ensure a safe environment for women. Further, if these provisions are found to be ineffective, then they need to be Amended.

This is not something which is restricted to India. Throughout the world, countries have been passing laws to address the menace of stalking, and have recognized the need for amendments where the law is not effective. Examples include the UK, which only introduced it as a crime in 2012, but amended the maximum punishment in 2017 because they realized it was insufficient. Germany amended the definition of stalking and threshold for filing complaints in 2016.

 The aim of this bill is to protect all victims of stalking. Threatening the mental and physical safety of a person goes against the constitution, cases of stalking have led to more grievous abuse but the law has failed to recognise it as such. This restricts the police and the judiciary from taking action resulting in crimes that can be prevented by denying stalkers unhindered access to their victims.

Recommendations:

  1. To change stalking to a non - bailable offense
  2. To clarify the definition of stalking so as to make it easier to identify stalking behavior and to protect innocent from false charges
  3. To change (i) Section 354A, Indian Penal Code 1860 - Sexual harassment of the nature of unwelcome physical contact and advances or a demand or request for sexual favors
  4. and (ii) Section 354C, Indian Penal Code 1860 - voyeurism to non - bailable  offences.


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