In Focus

High-profile cases highlight gravity of offence

By Manu Shrivastava

However, it will take many more serious crimes and perhaps more high-profile cases for people and women, in particular, to understand the gravity of ‘stalking’ and how something seemingly innocuous can lead to more dangerous crimes such as molestation, rape and murder.

A file picture of Priyasarshini Mattoo
There have been several cases in the past when the victim’s failure to report ‘stalking’ or the police’s refusal to register and take cognizance of an offence led to the murder or rape of the victim. The most notable case being of Priyadarshini Mattoo, a law student, who was raped and brutally murdered by her stalker.

According to Section 354 D of the Indian Penal Code:
1) Any man who—
follows a woman and contacts, or attempts to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman; or monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication, commits the offence of stalking;
(2) Whoever commits the offence of stalking shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine; and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine.

It must be noted that most women choose to ignore the person (stalker) or the act of stalking, sometimes not realising the seriousness of the offence and more often out of shame. The constant evasion of the situation only emboldens the stalker.

It is often inaction on the part of the victim that stalkers get the courage to continue their acts and sometimes even escalate by attempting to rape and/or murder the woman. In case of physical stalking, a woman may change her commuting route or the travel schedule or time.