The article here focuses on one of the most general types of crime which are increasing simultaneously with the growth and development of the usage of internet and information technology. The Internet and technology have enabled in communicating within millions of people all around the world without any physical barriers, it really came as a boon to mankind. However, it was not able to save it from mirroring the dark side of society while growing. The usage of the Internet has increased over the years and is now available to almost everyone. The people have started using it to accomplish their deviant activities. The Internet is also facilitating many to use it as a means of their wrongdoings. A crime committed using the Internet is called cybercrime. Cybercrime is a result of the urbane lifestyle. It has now taken various forms of which the most popular is cyberstalking.
What is Cyberstalking?
Cyberstalking in simple means can be called as an extended version of physical stalking. Cyberstalking is defined as the repeated use of the Internet, E-mail or related digital electronic communication devices to annoy, alarm or threaten a specific individual or a group of individuals. The widespread use of technology has given the malefactors another means to harass people and make them the victim of the various online crimes. It often includes stalking the victim with real-time offline stalking. Cyberstalking is a form of online harassment which can extend and take forms such as cyberbullying.
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying is defined as the use of electronic communication to bully a person, typically by sending messages of an intimidating or threatening nature. It is becoming a serious problem for society has it is causing mental and physical harm to the victims of bullies as now bullying has become easier for them. Cyberbullying is an easier way for the bullies as now they don’t even have to disclose their identity and face their victims. They can easily communicate with their victim with the help of advanced technology at their hands.
What counts as cyberstalking?
As earlier mentioned cyberstalking is done through the use of the Internet and other advanced technology. It includes various activities which can be done by taking different forms of online harassment such as:
- Using photographs, videos or any other form of multimedia video or audio of the victim to threaten them. It may include releasing those multimedia as pornographic or obscene material on the free Internet.
- Spamming the victim with e-mails including unwanted messages and attachments such as photos, videos or audios despite the request of the victim to stop.
- By hacking into the private online space of the victim.
- Tracking the victim’s offline as well as online movements and activities in the real and virtual world.
- Collecting and using the information about the victim to stalking them offline by showing at their workplace or near their home.
- Harassing the victim through online chat rooms and messaging them in their social media accounts such as sending them multiple messages on Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram etc.
- Sending junk files and viruses through Emails.
- Impersonating the victim in different platforms to harass them. It is also known as electronic identity theft.
- Manipulating the personal data of the victim such as the medical data of the victim.
- Watching the victim through webcams and making them feel that they are being watched.
What are the effects of Cyberstalking on the Victims?
People who have been cyberstalked can develop psychological problems because of experiencing online harassment. It can leave them frightened and terrified which even impacts their interpersonal, social and occupational functioning. It is observed that the victims often change their names, address, retaliate in socializing on social media platforms and offline, change their jobs, discontinue their normal activities. They may even suffer from psychiatric disorders which can be incurable and can lead to death. The psychological trauma caused to the victim can lead to things such as:
- Anxiety Issues
- Fearing for their safety
- Being hypervigilant for themselves as well as friends and family
- Sleeping disorders and change in their sleeping patterns
- Lack of trust in people
- Constantly feeling helpless
The above mentioned are some reactions of the victims to name a few. There have been cases where the victim has tried to commit suicide and sometimes, unfortunately, were successful at there attempts in taking their own life due to the cyber crimes.
Statistical Data on Cyber Crime in India
As per an article by The Hindu dated 5th November 2019, The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2017 data shows that cybercrime in India jumped by 77 % in 2017. It further mentions that in India 21,796 cases have been recorded of cybercrimes. At around 1.7 each of one lakh, people have committed cybercrime. New crime heads such as cyber blackmailing, cyberstalking, and dissemination of fake news was introduced in 2017 NCRB report.
There has been a sharp increase in the rate of cybercrime from 2016 to 2017. On state-wise analysis, it was observed that Uttar Pradesh was the state with the highest number of cybercrime with 4,971 cases. Followed closely by Maharashtra with 3,604 cases and Karnataka with 3,174 cases. Karnataka was the leading state in case of cybercrime committed by every 5 in one lakh of its population. Cyberstalking and cyberbullying are observed to be the third most cybercrimes committed after ATM Frauds and Online Banking Frauds. Women and children are the most common victims of these cybercriminals. It is very essential
What are the Legal Provisions for Cyber Crime – Cyberstalking?
The increasing problem of cybercrimes requires the state legislator and the judiciary of India to be at the heels and provide efficient solutions and rewards to the victims of cybercrime.
Provisions under the Indian Penal Code
- Under Section 354D of Indian Penal Code added by the 2013 amendment act which is titled as Stalking proscribes that “(1) Any man who–
(i) 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
(ii) monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication,
commits the offence of stalking”
- Section 354A of Indian Penal Code talks about sexual harassment and provides for a punishment of 3 years and/or fine. It includes demand or request for sexual favours and more.
- Section 354C of Indian Penal Code talks about voyeurism where it is considered that “any man who watches or captures the image of a woman engaging in a private act in circumstances where she would usually have the expectation of not being observed either by the perpetrator or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator or disseminates such image1 shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than one year, but 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 shall not be less than three years, but which may extend to seven years, and shall also be liable to fine.”
- Criminal Intimidation as under Section 503 of the Indian Penal Code which is punishable with imprisonment extending up to 2 years where a person will be punished if he/she threatens the other by an injury to the victim or his reputation or property. This act is done with an intent to alarm the victim or make him do acts which he is not bound to do.
- Similarly, Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code focuses on “Criminal Intimidation by anonymous communication.”
Provisions under the Information Technology Act, 2008
The offence of stalking is not dealt with directly in the IT Act of 2008.
- Section 72 of the Information Technology Act, 2008, “Breach of confidentiality and privacy.- Save as otherwise provided in this Act or any other law for the time being in force, any person who, in pursuant of any of the powers conferred under this Act, rules or regulations made thereunder, has secured access to any electronic record, book, register, correspondence, information, document or other material without the consent of the person concerned discloses such electronic record, book, register, correspondence, information, document or other material to any other person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees, or with both.”
- Section 72A of the Information Technology Act, 2008, “Punishment for Disclosure of information in breach of lawful contract: Save as otherwise provided in this Act or any other law for the time being in force, any person including an intermediary who, while providing services under the terms of a lawful contract, has secured access to any material containing personal information about another person, with the intent to cause or knowing that he is likely to cause wrongful loss or wrongful gain discloses, without the consent of the person concerned, or in breach of a lawful contract, such material to any other person shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with a fine which may extend to five lakh rupees, or with both.”
- Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2008 – “Publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form.” It provides for a punishment extending to 3 years and fine in case of first conviction and 5 years for a second conviction.
- Section 67A of the Information Technology Act, 2008, “Publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc. in electronic form.” The offence is punishable with imprisonment extending to 5 years and fine for the first conviction and 7 years and fine on the second conviction.
How can you file a complaint against Cyberstalking?
As per the Information Technology Act that a complaint can be filed as per the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, that any officer who should not be below the rank of a Deputy Superintendent of Police, or any other officer of the Central Government or State Government who can enter public places and arrest without warrant.
Cyber Cells: Victims can go for redressal in cyber cells. They especially deals with criminal activities which are related to the internet. In case of absence of cyber cell, one can go to a police station and lodge an F.I.R in the local police station irrespective of jurisdiction. In case the local police station do not lodge it then you can approach to the Judicial Magistrate of the city.
- The victim can report to the website itself, the social media websites provide a reporting mechanism. As per the IT (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules, 2011 the websites after a complaint is reported has to disable the information within 36 hours. They have to remove such offending information and associating records of the same and preserve for investigating purpose.
- The victim can report to CERT-IN which stands for Indian Computer Emergency Response Team which is designated as a nodal agency by the Information Technology Act, 2008 for solving issues related to computer security. They serve has an agency which helps to give procedure, prevent, report and respond to cyber-related crimes and deviant activities. The victim and even the system administrator can report through CERT-IN. It provides assistance in issues such as email spamming, data theft, data manipulation, online trespassing.
- Women can file a complaint with the National Commission of Women online on their website http://ncwapps.nic.in/onlinecomplaintsv2/ or http://ncw.nic.in/. They can even call and complaint on their helpline number 0111-23219750 for women not from Delhi. For Delhi it is 1096.
- The victim can also complain on the website of National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal https://cybercrime.gov.in/. They can even call on their helpline number 155260.
Cyberstalking Cases in India
Manish Kathuria Case
This case was the first cyberstalking case reported in India. “In 2001, India’s first cyberstalking case was reported. Manish Kathuria was stalking an Indian lady, Ms Ritu Kohli by illegally chatting on the web site, www.mirc.com using her name, and used obscene and obnoxious language, and distributed her residence telephone number, invited people to chat with her on the phone. As a result, Ms Ritu Kohli was getting obscene calls from various states of India and abroad, and people were talking dirty with her. In a state of shock, she called the Delhi police and reported the matter. The police registered her case under Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for outraging the modesty of Ritu Kohli. But Section 509 refers only to a word, a gesture or an act intended to insult the modesty of a woman. But when the same things are done on the Internet, then there is no mention about it in the said section. This case caused alarm to the Indian government, for the need to amend the laws regarding the aforesaid crime and regarding the protection of victims under the same.”
The State of Tamil Nadu Vs. Suhas Katti
“The case related to the posting of obscene, defamatory and annoying message about a divorced woman in the yahoo message group. Emails were also forwarded to the victim for information by the accused through a false e-mail account opened by him in the name of the victim. The posting of the message resulted in annoying phone calls to the lady in the belief that she was soliciting. The accused was a known family friend of the victim and was reportedly interested in marrying her. She, however, married another person. This marriage later ended in divorce and the accused started contacting her once again. On her reluctance to marry him, the accused took up the harassment through the Internet.” The accused was convicted as found guilty under section 469,509 of IPC and under section 67 of the IT Act 2000 with imprisonment of 2 years.
- D’Ovidio, R. and Doyle, J. (2003). A Study on Cyberstalking: Understanding Investigative Hurdles. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, 72(3), p.10.
- Deo, D. (2013). Cyberstalking and Online Harassment: A New Challenge For Law Enforcement. Bharati Law Review, [online] 2(1), pp.86-93. Available at: http://docs.manupatra.in/newsline/articles/Upload/FDF5EB3E-2BB1-44BB-8F1D-9CA06D965AA9.pdf [Accessed 11 Dec. 2019].
- Eshwar, V. and Rajan, A. (2018). A Critical Analysis on Judicial Activism in Relation to Cyber Law-An Indian Perspective. International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics, [online] 119(17), pp.1489-1501. Available at: https://acadpubl.eu/hub/2018-119-17/2/123.pdf [Accessed 11 Dec. 2019].
- Sen, S. (2019). NCRB data: Cybercrimes reached a new high in 2017. The Hindu. [online] Available at https://www.thehindu.com/data/cyber-crime-cases-in-india-jumped-77-in-2017-compared-to-2016/article29889061.ece [Accessed 9 Dec. 2019].
- The Indian Penal Code, 1860, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India).
- The Information Technology Act, 2008, Acts of Parliament, 2008 (India).
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