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‘Stalking must be made a non-bailable offence’

Although many amendments have been introduced in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), stalking is still a bailable offence. Since the problem is so pervasive in nature, a private bill was introduced by Dr Shashi Tharoor, MP, was presented in the Lok Sabha on August 3.

Patriot reached out to the office of Dr Tharoor for some answers to the questionnaire sent, and he answered each question in their entirety.

Do you think the bill will get approved in the Parliament? If so, when?
Since we have only two sessions of Parliament left before the dissolution of the 16th Lok Sabha, there is a greater chance of the bill getting enacted if the government adopts it and introduces it as a government Bill, as opposed to a Private Members Bill. On 7 March this year, a day before International Women’s Day, I met the Home Minister and gave him a copy of my proposal. He received it sympathetically and assured me that he would consider amending the law accordingly.

NCRB data, it is often alleged, does not record cases of stalking, and the principle offence is replaced because of stringent punishment. Your view on that?
Stalking as a separate offence did not exist in the IPC till 2013. The NCRB has data for 2014-16, which presents a grim picture. 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. However, there are numerous instances of people who are stalked and do not file cases, as they fear repercussions, especially since there are instances of the accused attacking victims with the aim of forcing them to withdraw such cases. If the offence is made non-bailable, it will encourage people to report these cases as the likelihood of those facing such charges approaching the victims will be reduced.

Do you feel there should be a collective responsibility coordinated on social media platforms to curb the situation?
Social media can play a major role in raising awareness about the problem. Many people are still unaware of the fact that stalking and voyeurism are criminal offences, and unfortunately the media does not cover these matters adequately. Social media therefore is an important platform to combat this menace, and social media service providers should have stringent mechanisms to deal with those who misuse social media platforms to stalk other people.

What made you propose the bill?
The Talking-Stalking Campaign by Quint brought to my attention the large number of cases in which women were being stalked and harassed. They also brought to my attention various instances in which the accused get bail as a right and harass complainants and eyewitnesses to withdraw the cases. The law only needs a minor amendment to the CrPc to make stalking a non-bailable offence. That way you need to convince a judge that you won’t vitiate the trial by getting bail and the judge can place conditions to prevent the accused from sabotaging the case.