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Harassment Through Phone Calls

These days it has become quite very common that people are receiving harassing phone calls. These calls include threat, foul language or often such words that hurt other's dignity. It goes more serious because the person on other side is completely a stranger. These calls are considered as criminal offence in India, therefore there is a need to make people aware to report such cases as soon as possible.

A report of 2020 from Truecaller says, "It has been noticed that in India, 8 out of 10 women receive inappropriate or harassment calls atleast once in every week. New Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Pune tops the list. At public places, restaurants or shopping centres, women usually give their mobile numbers to the counter boy which can be misused. With regards to taking action towards it, only 12% of women reports such to the police authorities while rest 82% simply blocks the number that is not a solution to it.

Blank calls also constitute harassment. These are made with the intention of just bothering the person.

What Is Harassment?

Harassment is something that people often get confused while understanding. Any sort of virtual or physical act that disturbs or mortifies other person, or threatens one in any manner constitutes harassment. It is to be kept in mind that hurting someone like this is a wrong and people must try not to commit such wrong.

Person committing harassment can be made liable both for civil or criminal offence. Court takes into consideration several factors such as one's previous record, before deciding as to what charges should the defendant be charged with.

Identification Of Harassing Phone Calls

Not all undesirable phone calls come under the definition of harassment.

Following are the conditions under which an undesirable phone call constitutes offence of harassment:
  • Somebody annoys or threatens you by continuously calling you.
  • Making statements, comments or proposals that are offensive or sickening.
  • Continues to converse without revealing his actual identity.
  • Shows abusive or belittling telephone behaviour.

Effects Of Harassing Phone Calls

Unwanted harassment calls have a long list of consequences. Sometimes the harasser is a person we know. This leaves a feeling of humiliation or betrayal by the harasser.

A survey was conducted by Truecaller in 2019 on 2150 women ageing between 15 to 35 years. The report showed up that 4 out of every 5 women described that they feel irritated or in pain through these phone calls. 1 in 3 women reported that it left a psychological impact on their health that they felt ill at ease most of the time. Also, the number of victims are rising yearly.

Remedies In India

In the first place, the victim must report about the act to the police and file a complaint against the harasser. Certain information such as recording the voice, time and date of the phone calls will work as a good support to the police for catching up the harasser. An FIR must definitely be submitted by the victim on receiving phone calls over a long period.

Several provisions are made under statutes in India so as to punish the accused and provide justice to the victim.

The list of provisions:
  • Section 354A of Indian Penal Code[1]:
    Under this law, any person who asks for sexual favour or makes expressive sexual comments shall be held guilty of offence of sexual harassment and will be punished with imprisonment upto 3 years or fine, or both.
  • Section 354D of Indian Penal Code:
    It states that if a person often proceed towards a women for a sexual relationship despite her being disinterested shall be punished with imprisonment of 3 years with fine.
  • Section 506 of Indian Penal Code:
    This clause states that if a person is guilty of the offence of criminal intimidation shall be subjected to 7 years imprisonment along with fine.
  • Section 507 of Indian Penal Code:
    Anyone who attempts to frighten or terrify a woman through unidentified communications will be punished with 2 years imprisonment in adding to punishment given under section 506.
  • Section 509 of Indian Penal Code:
    It states that if anyone insults your humility on a phone call, then in such case he will be punished with imprisonment of 1 year in along with fine.

Vishaka and others vs State of Rajasthan (Bhanwari Devi case) [2]
Bhanwari Devi, a woman of lower caste who worked as a development project worker was ferociously gang raped by 5 men from upper caste while trying to prevent a child marriage in her village. She knocked the doors of police station but they did not look into the matter. For the sake of justice, she then approached the trial court from where she was again denied as there was no medical proof available.

On behalf of Vishaka, women's right activist filed for a PIL in Supreme Court of India. This incident highlighted numerous other harassment cases that occurred in our day to day life and thereafter, need for implementation of strict rules was felt necessary.

The apex court observed that sexual harassment of women infringes their fundamental rights guaranteed under Art 14, 15, 19 & 21 of Indian Constitution. In order to prevent such wrongs, Supreme Court established certain rules that were to be mandatorily followed. These rules and guidelines were to be followed by every employer as well as the institutions. The centre and state governments were made bound to adopt such measures to ensure the following of guidelines and to take strict actions against those violating it.

Position In Other Countries

Harassment over phone calls is charged differently in different nations depending on the provisions of that particular nation.

As per the Texas Penal Code[3], ringing a phone constantly with the intention to harass the person on other side of phone call is punishable with imprisonment upto 180 days and a fine upto $2000. If the harasser is accused of same offence previously, he will be given additional imprisonment of 1 year and fine upto $4000.

According to Section 264 of Criminal Code[4], contacting someone regularly either to harass or to threaten another will end up him being sentenced for 10 years in prison.

  1. Act no 45 of 1860
  2. AIR 1997 SC 3011
  3. Act of 1856
  4. R.S.C 1985, c. C-46

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