Cyber Stalking: A Comprehensive Examination under Indian IT Law
In the digital age, traditional forms of harassment have taken on new dimensions, one of them being cyber stalking. The concept of cyber stalking is rooted in the larger domain of cybercrime and is an area of growing concern, globally and in India. Cyber stalking, broadly, refers to the act of pursuing or harassing a person online with malintent, often instilling fear and anxiety in the victim.
Defining Cyber Stalking
Cyber stalking is not explicitly defined under Indian law, however, its understanding is derived from general stalking definitions and adapted to fit the digital context. Essentially, cyber stalking is a systematic, deliberate, and extended form of persecution carried out online. This could include unsolicited emails, messages, or a barrage of online communications which harass, threaten, or intimidate the victim. This act may also involve monitoring, identity theft, data theft, and other malicious online activities targeted towards the victim.
Legal Provisions in India
While India does not have a law specifically on cyber stalking, certain provisions in the Information Technology (IT) Act 2000, as amended in 2008, and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) 1860 address this crime.
Section 66A of the IT Act: Although it was struck down by the Supreme Court in the landmark judgement of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (2015) on grounds of violating freedom of speech, Section 66A used to cover the sending of offensive messages through communication services, which included instances of cyber stalking.
Section 67 of the IT Act: This section deals with the publishing or transmitting of obscene material in electronic form. If a stalker uses obscene content as a method of harassment, they can be prosecuted under this section.
Section 354D of the IPC: Introduced by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, this provision explicitly criminalises stalking, including cyber stalking. The section stipulates that if a man monitors the online activities of a woman, or attempts to foster personal interaction despite clear disinterest, he can be prosecuted for stalking.
Relevant Case Laws
Rituparna Chakraborty v. State of Karnataka (2015): This case is significant as it addressed cyber stalking and harassment as the offence under Section 354D of IPC and acknowledged the reality of these offences in the digital space.
State of Tamil Nadu v. Suhas Katti (2004): This case is considered India's first conviction for cyber stalking. Suhas Katti was convicted under Sections 469, 509 IPC and Section 67 of the IT Act for posting obscene and defamatory articles about a divorced woman online.
Preventive Measures and Reporting
Victims of cyber stalking can employ various preventive measures including privacy settings on social media, not sharing personal information online, and keeping all communication records with the stalker. If one becomes a victim, they can report the incident to the local police or the cybercrime cell. The National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal is a significant initiative in this direction.
Though there's no standalone law addressing cyber stalking in India, existing provisions in the IT Act and IPC serve to protect individuals against such offences. However, given the rapid evolution of technology and internet usage patterns, there's an increasing need to relook at the current laws and possibly establish more explicit and specific legislation to tackle the menace of cyber stalking.