Since the evolution of Information technology, the world has only looked forward. Internet has transformed the world into a large family. Undoubtedly, it has helped in connecting people all over the world like never before. Internet has become an important part of our lives, since it has the solution to most of our problems. Years ago, communicating to people living at some distance, seemed to be a daunting task; however, Internet has changed it all. In this modern era, each and everything seems to be merely a click away. Email and other social networking sites have made communication easier than ever before. Social media in itself has proven to be one of the few revolutionary innovations of technology. This is the reason; Internet is seen as the most cherished invention of all times.
However with all the pros of the Internet, one cannot simply ignore the cons. With all the advancements of information technology, it has also widened the ambit of crimes committed through Internet and social media. Even though one might agree that the world of Internet is a great reliable source of information for people of all age groups, one cannot simply deny that crimes through the Internet have posed a threat to individuals on a large scale. The criminals make use of new technologies in order to commit such crimes not only against individuals but even the governments and other businesses. Such crimes are not restricted to any geographical area or any virtual border and thereby are capable of causing serious harm to the victims.
These crimes that are committed against people through the Internet are named as “cyber crimes”.
There is no single universally accepted definition of ‘cyber stalking’ yet, however, people and organizations have attempted to define it. In the simplest words, ‘cyber stalking’ can be understood as harassment that is computer oriented. One can also refer to cyber stalking as online harassment or even online abuse. The harassment occurs on various online platforms since the stalker or the perpetrator does not attempts any direct physical threat but instead does so, through the Internet.
Some of the most common examples of cyber stalking include cat fishing, visiting someone virtually i.e. via the Google maps street view or by monitoring someone’s location check-ins via social media, sometimes it also includes installing some sort of stalker ware or by hijacking someone’s webcam or by also looking at different geotags in order to track someone’s location, among many other types of cyber stalking crimes.
The act of stalking in itself can be classified into three main kinds, depending on the mode of stalking. These are: e-mail stalking, internet stalking and cyber stalking.
Various studies have also concluded that some of the reasons behind acts of cyber stalking include harassment, sometimes fascination or the growing feeling of revenge, or in order to boast or show off among friends and peers.
It is also important to understand what kind of acts comprises online/cyber harassment. These include- threats, or sexual remarks towards an individual, or by personally targeting the victims, humiliating the victim so as to gang up against the individual, by hacking or vandalizing the victim’s personal sites, publishing or circulating false accusations which are defamatory in nature, to name a few.
CYBER STALKING LEGISLATIONS
Surprisingly there are no laws in India yet, which specifically deal with the offence of cyber stalking.
Offences of cyber stalking and other harassment committed via the internet are dealt in India under the Information Technology Act 2000 and also by the Criminal law (Amendment) act, 2013.
Information Technology Act, 2000
The Information Technology Bill was passed by both the houses of the Indian Parliament in May 2000, which further received the President’s assent in August and hence came into force as the Information Technology Act, 2000. The Information Technology Act of 2000 contains most of the cyber laws of the country. Penalties and Adjudications for various offences are covered under Chapter IX of the said act whereas Chapter X of the
Information Technology Act, 2000 deals with the establishment of various appellate bodies such as the Cyber Regulations Appellate Tribunal. The said act was enacted in order to change the pre existing laws which were outdated in nature and also with a view to provide methods to deal with cyber crimes which have been on a rise since the past few years. It must be noted that the Information Technology Act, does not defines stalking, specifically. The act was amended in the year 2008, and thereby, section 66A was added which states-
Section 66A. Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc.
(a) Any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or
(b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device,
(c) Any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages,
Shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.
Explanation.— For the purpose of this section, terms “electronic mail” and “electronic mail message” means a message or information created or transmitted or received on a computer, computer system, computer resource or communication device including attachments in text, images, audio, video and any other electronic record, which may be transmitted with the message.
However, this section was considered to be too arbitrary and in violation of the Right of Free Speech since the scope of the section was too wide and seemed excessively disproportionate. Therefore, in a major judgment under Shreya Singhal v. Union of India in 2015, the above article was struck down.
Criminal law (Amendment) Act, 2013
After the heinous Nirbhya Gang Rape case that occurred in Delhi there was a nationwide cry with regard to the safety of women in the country and the inadequacy of the legal system with regard to the same. Therefore, there were a number of amendments brought in order to cope with the inadequacy of laws in protecting women all around the country. The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was introduced in order to curb the above said problem and section 354D was added to the IPC through this amendment. It has been noted that section 353 to section 357 of the IPC talk about the stalking laws and the punishments that have been laid down for such crimes. Even though there are no provisions in the Indian legal system, which specifically talks about criminalization of cyber stalking in India.
ANALYSIS OF THE LEGISLATIONS
Looking at the various cases, one can easily understand the inadequacy of the legislation for countering the problems of cyber stalking in India. What can be considered as a bigger surprise is that there are no legislations to deal with women stalkers. All the legislations with regard to cyber stalking aim to protect women from male stalkers.
However, the current social arrangement has made men equally prone to online harassment even by women in many instances. In the absence of any legislation against women stalkers, lawyers and police generally deal with such complaints by filing cases under other offences such as extortion or criminal intimidation.
Since the world has completely digitalized and the Internet is available easily to everyone around the world, men and women both are considered to be contributing equally to the internet population. Not only the inadequacy of the legal system, but also the pre existing societal norms, prevent a man who is a victim of cyber stalking by a woman, from getting justice. The society generally assumes that women are not believed to have engaged in such acts because of the existing prejudices.
Another loophole in the existing legislation pertaining to cyber stalking is the bailable nature of majority of offences classified as cyber stalking. Therefore, criminals believe that they will eventually be bailed out of the jail and it further gives them an opportunity to destroy any evidence or even harass the complainant.
However one cannot deny the fact that the current legislation enacted to cope with the problems of cyber crimes, cyber stalking, in particular are not adequate and have lacunas.
The laws are deemed to be constitutionally invalid, since they are seen to be restricting the right of free speech of the citizens, granted by the constitution. The fundamental rights granted by the constitution are not absolute and are therefore eligible for any restrictions as deemed fit.
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