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Cyber stalking in India

1. What is cyber stalking?

Cyber stalking is a type of a crime. In the cyber stalking there is a involvement of two persons- Firstly, the stalker is also known as attacker who do the crime & Secondly, the Victim who is harassed by that stalker.

Cyber stalking is also known as cyber crime. Cyber which is related to the internet and the stalking means to browsing anyone’s online history with the help of any social media or in other websites to know about that particular person is term as stalking.

2. Stalking

The only term stalking means to consistently following any particular person over a long period of time. This activity also involves the harassment or threatening behavior. The stalker consistently following a person everywhere at home, market etc, and the stalker also threaten that person by repeatedly sending the messages, doing blank phone calls.

But, in the cyber stalking there is a use of the internet or any other electronic media by which the communication can be done through the E-mails or SMS to stalk that person.

A cyber stalker’s totally relies upon the inconspicuousness given by the internet, which allows them to stalk their victim without being detected. The cyber stalking is totally different from the spamming of the messages by the spammer.

Cyber stalking is a serious crime and there are many cases against it in India.

3. How the Case of Cyber Stalking are dealth within the Indian Laws?

cyber stalking

Cyber stalking is a serious crime, a type of offence committed by the person’s known as the stalkers. There are many cases filed against those persons by the victim every year in India.
In India the cases which are filed against those stalkers are majorly reported by the females, nearly about 60% females get victimized. The stalking is majorly spotted in the two states of India;
Firstly, Maharashtra with 1,399 cases which had a higher number of stalking. Secondly, Delhi with around 1130 cases is filed against the stalking.

The cyber stalking cases are dealt in India by the:

1. Information technology act 2000.
2. The criminal law (Amendment) act 2013.

1. Information Technology Act 2000

If any person is publishing or sending any salacious material in the form of electronic media is to be charged under section 67 of the Act. This dose not involves the determination of the extent of liability of ISP (internet service providers) and their directors.

For the preclusion of cyber stalking the protection of the data is very important, which gets leaked easily by the hackers. According to the amended IT act, section 43 A is added for the inclusion of a Body corporate”, the allowing of the compensation in the case of a firm or a company which causes any wrongful losses or gain to any person by the way of transmitting any sensitive information and the maintenance of such type of security, then such body corporate shall be liable to pay damages by way of compensation.

The Information Technology Act, 2000 also comes into picture when the cyberstalker posts or sends any obscene content to the victim. Section 67 of the Information Technology Act states that when any obscene material is published, transmitted or caused to be published in any electronic form, then it is a crime of obscenity, punishable with imprisonment for up to 5 years with fine of up to Rs. 1 lakh. A second or subsequent conviction is punishable by imprisonment for up to 10 years with a fine of up to Rs. 2 lakh.

Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code that deals with defamation, can be applied in case of cyber stalking in India if the stalker forges the victim’s personal information to post an obscene message or comment on any electronic media. Section 500 criminalises publishing any false statement against a person or harming the person's reputation and provides punishment for any such act with imprisonment up to 2 years, fine or both.

The first ever complaint against cyber stalking in India was filed by Ritu Kohli in 2003, whose name and contact information was posted by her husband’s friend on a chatting site, without her permission. She filed a complaint with the cyber cell in India under Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code for outraging her modesty.

The crime of cyber stalking in India is prominently increasing, with new cases of internet stalking every day. With ease in accessing personal information of a person online, cybercriminals are easily able to stalk and harass a person.

2. The criminal law (Amendment) Act, 2013

The act includes Stalking” as an offence under Section 35D of the IPC(Indian penal code).

This act states that, Any man who-
I. contacts and follows a woman or attempts to contacts such woman to proselytize personal communication repeatedly despite of being clear indication of disinterest by such woman or;
II. Observe the use of a woman over the internet, instant messages, e-mail or any other form of electronic communication is the offence of stalking”.
Racism is also a factor in cyber stalking.

4. The Virtual Reality of Cyber Stalking in India

The internet has created a channel that has made communication and sharing of data easier. Social media platforms allow people to connect with each other and access each other's information with a single click. However, on the flip side, technology has certain loopholes which allow criminals to misuse this liberty of access, leading to a rise in cyber crimes.

The internet has created a channel that has made communication and sharing of data easier. Social media platforms allow people to connect with each other and access each other’s information with a single click.

However, on the flip side, technology has certain loopholes which allow criminals to misuse this liberty of access, leading to a rise in cyber crimes.
One such cyber crime is cyber stalking, also known as online stalking or internet stalking. Simply put, cyber stalking is the use of technology, the internet in particular to harass a person. This harassment includes monitoring someone’s online activities, threats, identity theft, data theft, forging their data, etc. cyber stalking is often termed as an obsessive behaviour in which a

person compulsively and illegally keeps a track of someone’s each and every activity over the internet.

Cyberstalkers use multiple methods to stalk a person over the internet like SMS, phone calls, emails, etc., the most common being social media platforms. Social media websites and mobile apps have access to a user’s personal information like pictures, address, contacts and whereabouts. Stalkers are able to misuse this information to threaten, blackmail or physically contact the victim. Cyberstalkers also use emails as an instrument to stalk a person. A stalker may gain access to a person’s email account through hacking and use it to send threatening or obscene messages. Some emails have computer malware or viruses attached to them in order to render the email useless to the owner.

Laws are constantly amended to keep up with the change in modes of committing crimes. After the Delhi Gang Rape case in 2012, the Indian Penal Code was amended by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 that added Section 354D to the IPC. Section 353-357 of the Indian Penal Code provides stalking laws in India and lay down the punishment for committing the crime of stalking. However, there are no provisions in the criminal laws in India that specifically criminalises cyber stalking in India.

Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 states that a person would be punished with imprisonment for up to 3 years with fine if he uses a computer resource or communication device to send Any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character.

Any information which is false to cause annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will.

Any email or electronic mail message to cause annoyance or inconvenience, mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages.

5. Case of Cyber Stalking

Little did Seema Khanna (name changed), an employee with an embassy in New Delhi, know that web surfing would lead to an invasion of her privacy.

In an apparent case of cyber stalking, Khanna received a series of e-mails from a man asking her to either pose in the nude for him or pay Rs 1 lakh to him. In her complaint to Delhi Police, the woman said she started receiving these mails in the third week of November.

The accused threatened Khanna that he would put her morphed pictures on display at sex websites , along with her telephone number and address. He also allegedly threatened to put up these pictures in her neighbourhood in southwest Delhi.

Initially, she ignored the mails , but soon she started receiving letters through post, repeating

the same threat. She was forced to report the matter to the police, said an officer with cyber crime cell.
That, however, was not the end of her ordeal. The accused mailed the woman her photographs. The woman claimed these were the same photographs which she had kept in her mail folder. The police said the accused had hacked her e-mail password which enabled him to access the pictures.

A preliminary inquiry into the complaint has revealed that the mails were sent to the victim from a cyber cafe in south Delhi. We hope to trace the accused soon said deputy commissioner of police (crime) Dependra Pathak.

The police feel the accused might be known to the victim as he seemed to know a lot about her. The cyber stalker can be booked under Section 509 of the IPC for outraging the modesty of a woman and also under the Information Technology Act, 2000.

Net crime

• Woman threatened by cyber stalker who managed to get her photographs from her mail folder
• In another case, a housewife started receiving obscene calls from across the world after a hacker flashed her details on the Net
• Delhi Police set up two computer training centres this year to enable its staff to investigate cyber crime
• The police admit IT Act, 2000 is not enough to deal with cyber
6. For victims of cyber stalking, justice is elusive

While laws against harassment are in place, implementation is a problem and many cases go unreported.

Early last month, a 21-year-old in Tamil Nadu’s Salem district saw a picture of her face, digitally superimposed on the scantily-clad body of another woman, posted on Facebook. She informed her parents, and told them the name of the man responsible for it.

She had recently graduated and he worked at a power loom unit. She had rejected his proposal of marriage, and to get back at her, he morphed her picture using a mobile phone app, uploaded it on Facebook and tagged her on the post. The woman’s father lodged a complaint with the

Cyber Crime Cell on 23 June. Four days later, she found another doctored image tagged to her Facebook ID—this time with her name and her father’s phone number on it.
On the same day, the woman hanged herself. In her suicide note, she repeatedly said that she hadn’t sent any such pictures to anyone and wrote,

When you people do not believe me, what is the use of living?
In a separate case last October, two boys in Bengaluru along with their friends kidnapped a 15- year-old and clicked her nude pictures. The girl committed suicide. Her suicide note read: I have decided to die as I have lost my honour. I and my family need justice.

These are not isolated cases but one of the few cases of online harassment and cyber stalking that were reported by the media. According to National Crime Records Bureau data, the number of cases for obscene publication and transmission in electronic form under the Information Technology Act, 2000, has risen since 2007, when 99 such cases were reported.

The number rose to 105 in 2008, 139 in 2009, 328 in 2010, 496 in 2011 and 589 in 2012. The figure more than doubled to 1,203 in 2013. In 2014, 758 crimes were reported, in which 491 people were arrested.

Online harassment and cyber crimes have not been given the kind of priority in India as these deserve. The mindset is such that these crimes are perceived as minor crimes. And going by the numbers, we know that by and large, India has failed in getting the requisite cyber crime convictions, and the number of such crimes is rising, said cyber law expert and Supreme Court advocate Pavan Duggal.

In July 2015, the cyber cell of the Mumbai Police secured the first ever conviction in the state under the Information Technology Act since cyber-laws were framed in 2000. A city court sent Yogesh Prabhu, 36, an executive in a private company, to jail for three months for stalking and sending obscene images to his colleague who had earlier rejected his proposal. The police seized evidence such as IP addresses, laptops and statements from the server used by Prabhu to send the emails.

Unlike Prabhu’s case, in the case of the Salem woman, as reported by The Indian Express, even after repeated complaints from the girl’s family, the police took no action. In fact, according to the report, a cyber crime head constable in the district demanded a free mobile phone for probing the case. Despite receiving a ₹ 2,000 mobile phone, no action was taken, it said. (The constable has since been suspended.

In most cases, police hasn’t been able to either collect electronic evidence or preserve it or produce it or prove it. Even if you get a cyber crime registered, the police invariably doesn’t register these cases because they are not sure if they will be able to crack it. The police is more comfortable with the traditional laws relating to crimes that happen physically. There is no capacity building among law enforcement agencies. So, majority of these cases result in acquittal, says Duggal. According to a study, Cyber Law and Information Technology, by

Talwant Singh, additional district and sessions judge, Delhi, as published in delhicourts.nic.in, a survey indicates that for every 500 cyber crime incidents that take place, only 50 are reported to the police and out of that, only one is actually registered.

Out of the few that get registered, cases of famous people and only a few involving unknown people, make news. Women—particularly those with strong opinions (remember Congress party spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi threatened with rape and death like Nirbhaya?)-

Have been targets of online harassment for long. Casual threats to gang rape, murder and violence are very common online. As American scholar Mary Anne Franks, in a 2009 study Unwilling Avatars: Idealism and Discrimination in Cyberspace, said, women haven’t actually achieved this bodiless freedom online. They are embodied in distributed pictures and in sexual comments, whether they like it or not.

In order to survive this kind of shaming, you need support structures. It is an incredible burden. Social media has become a platform for shaming. It is like standing on a public street being jeered at by a man, except that on a public street, people aren’t continuously posted, while online is a continuous space. Once your picture is out there, it will stay there. Even if you get it removed, there is someone with a screenshot of it. In cases like this (the 21-year-old victim from Salem), the burden of shame is unbearable, particularly without any support, says activist and secretary of the All India Progressive Women’s Association, Kavita Krishnan.

Trolling is nothing new for Krishnan. In May, she lodged a police complaint against a former journalist who made a Facebook post that amounted to sexual harassment, following her comment in a TV debate that one could only pity people who fear free sex because un-free sex is nothing but rape.

However, she says it’s been a month and nothing has happened. The police had said it will get back. Patriarchy enables you to put down a woman in a way you cannot do to a man. The fact that she or any other woman had to be concerned about what people will say, how they will brand her as immoral, is not something that men have to deal with, says Krishnan.

The impact of online harassment is as much if not more than the harassment in the physical world, even if, as Duggal says, our mindset is such that we don’t recognize it.

Delhi-based clinical psychologist Pulkit Sharma says, When someone harasses you online, it is viewed by a much larger audience and you feel helpless about not being able to contain the spread of that false information or a photograph. So, the sense of shame, the trauma, the feeling of being exposed, is much, much higher.

With technology democratizing the social media—India has now around one billion mobile subscribers and an estimated 500 million Internet users—there has been a change of the profile of an average cyber criminal, and there also has been a rise in cases of cyber crime in the country, particularly those involving women. Earlier, there was a certain profile of certain harassers-mostly in the age group 11-25 years, and educated.

Now, more and more people who are not very educated, but are mobile-literate are getting involved in such crimes. Some are so tech-savvy that they demand money in bitcoins now. This is converging into a phenomenon of social media extortion, says Duggal.

Most of such cases go unreported, either by police or by families themselves, because of the belief that these acts of harassment are regrettable but not really punishable. Even though laws against online harassment are in place, implementation of these laws is where the problem lies.

Till March 2015, the government used Section 66A of the Information Technology Act as the remedy for all online abuse, but the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional. However, there are provisions under the Indian Penal Code which provide direct legal remedy to harassment.

Despite legal provisions, there are loopholes, says Duggal. After the IT Act amendment, barring a few cyber crimes, almost all are made bailable offences. So, there is no deterrent. People know they will be eventually bailed. And after being bailed out, people go back and destroy incriminating evidence. And in many cases, the servers used are outside the country and the government can do only so much.

Daily reported that immediately after her death, the accused in the Salem case removed the second picture from Facebook, a piece of evidence that would have substantiated the stalking charge. He was arrested and confessed to the crime. The woman is no longer around to tell her side of the story, but the note she left points to the perilous Internet landscape that many others like her traverse every day.

Written By: Rohit Lohia - K.R. Mangalam University, Harayana

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