As there is advancement in technology, crime has also increased due to it. Technology and crime go hand in hand. Technology played an important role in the several bomb blasts which occurred worldwide. One of the important medium was computers in all these killings. Computers have been proved versatile. It helps from communication to spreading heinous viruses all over. The later part and more to it is spreading a lot nowadays. Computer crimes or say cyber crimes have increased a lot today. Various categories are explored under it, out of which one of them is cyber stalking. Stalking happens every day in the real world but when it comes to virtual world stalking has increased at a double rate because stalkers can easily target victims being anonymous via internet. It is safe in comparison to stalking in real world.
The word stalking was not commonly known until various instances happened. The legal definition of stalking varies from country to country. Various definitions are available in several books, out of which it can be stated that the common elements are[i];
- Repeated and unwanted behaviours whereby one individual attempts to contact another individual, and
- The behaviour causes the victim to feel threatened or harassed.
Stalking has become a problem to women and children on a larger part in comparison to men. Women are threatened, vandalized, assaulted when it comes to real world but the same things happen when cyber stalking takes place. Obscenity also adds up with the, threatens and harassment. No doubt men also become the prey of the same but its lower when it comes to females. Children also undergo the same trauma by adult predators and pedophiles. The victim is normally a person who is less thorough regarding internet services and its applications. The stalker is generally a person who is a paranoid with no self-esteem. But the traits differ from one stalker to another. Some harass to seek revenge or some do so for their own pleasure. While some just to do it for playing a mischief.
Cyber stalking is potentially just as dangerous to the victim as a live stalker would be the front door.[ii]
The core areas where the stalking takes place are;
- live chat rooms/flaming[iii],
- discussion forums and;
- message boards.
Talking about chat rooms, here the stalker harasses by way electronically sabotaging the victim. While in case on forums and message boards, the stalker does by posting obscene junk under the name, contact number and address of the victim thereby threatening the victim. Similar is the case when it comes to e-mail. Instead stalking on e-mails has increased at a greater pace. The prowler sends bullying mails, obscene pictures, spamming etc.
Discussing about the legal regime in India, then there were no provisions regarding cyber stalking until 2008. The Information Technology Act, 2000 did not contain any provisions regarding this heinous crime but the amended Act in 2008 made it possible by recognising cyber stalking via Section 66A. Though on paper it’s a recognised crime, half of the society is still unaware about it. In the following article an effort has been made to confer about cyber stalking in relevance criminal law and the legislative provisions.
Starting with criminal law, there is no per se law regarding cyber stalking under Indian Penal Code. Though, Section 503-507 applies for stalking. Some of the cyber stalking elements should amount to criminal offences and should lead to prosecutable offence. At the same time other international countries have ample of laws on cyber stalking. Talking about USA, their first cyber stalking law went into effect in 1999 in California.[iv]Other countries have also started to include this crime into their legislations. India has grown tremendously in the internet industry. Though it has developed in context of technology but then the issues regarding have also increased. The Information Technology Act, 2000 did not recognise the term but due to Ritu Kohli’s case the amended Act of 2008 recognised Cyber Stalking. In a case, in 2003, 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 (32) received a series of e-mails from a man asking her to either pose in 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. The police felt that 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. But the police admitted that IT Act, 2000 was not enough to deal with cyber stalking.[v]
Ritu Kohli’s case is the first case in India dealing with cyber stalking. The case in which issues were raised as to what is cyber stalking? Why don’t’ we have laws regarding it? Recently, the Delhi Police arrested Manish Kathuria the culprit of the case. In the said case, Manish was stalking a person called Ritu Kohli on the Net by illegally chatting on the website www.mirc.com with the name of Ritu Kohli. Manish was regularly chatting under the identity of Ritu Kohli on the said Website, using obscene and obnoxious language, was distributing her residence telephone number and inviting chatter to chat with her on telephone.Consequently Ritu Kohli was getting obscene calls from different chatters from various parts of India and abroad. Ritu Kohli reported the matter to the police and the Delhi Police swung into action. The police had registered the case under Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code for outraging the modesty of Ritu Kohli.[vi] But Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code only refers to word, gesture or act intended to insult modest of a woman. But when same things are done on internet, then there is no mention about it in the said section. None of the conditions mentioned in the section cover cyber stalking. Ritu Kolhi’s case was an alarm to the Government, to make laws regarding the aforesaid crime and regarding protection of victims under the same. As a result Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2008 (ITAA 2008) states[vii], “Punishment for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc:
Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,-
(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 makes 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 (Inserted vide ITAA 2008) shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.
Explanation: For the purposes 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, image, audio, video and any other electronic record, which may be transmitted with the message.”
Ritu Kohli’s case is one the few cases that came in the lime light. There are thousands of cyber stalking cases talking place in the nation, but only few cases are lodged as a complaint. Due to threaten and fear of getting abused in the society half of the victims accept the incident as a nightmare and try moving on. Cyber stalking is covered under various approaches such as personal intervention, strategies, and legislative provisions to various flaws. In the 21st century the technological exploitation ha increased in comparison to physical exploitation. With no proper safeguards it is increasing everyday at a double rate. According to ‘Working to Halt Online Abuse’[viii] –an organization working since 1997 to fight against online harassment, in the year 2011, 305 cases of cyber stalking took place.
Also very few people are aware about the legal aspect of cyber stalking. Very few people even know that something called cyber stalking even exists. Folks need to get education regarding online abuse. It is one of the major steps by which an end can be availed to this heinous crime. The legal aspects are of no use if one does not know what is cyber stalking and what to do, when one becomes the prey of it?
[i] Verma Amita, ‘Cyber Crimes & Law’, Central Law Publication, p-157
[ii] Verma Amita, ‘Cyber Crimes & Law’, Central Law Publication, p-158
[iii]Available on, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flaming_(Internet)
[iv] Jain.N.C, ‘Cyber Crime’,Allahabad Law Agency, p-235,236
[vi] Cyberlaw consultant, ‘Legislation to check cyber stalking needed urgently’
Available on, http://www.financialexpress.com/old/fe/daily/20000727/efe27021.html
[vii] Information Technolgy (Amended) Act, 2008.
Available on, http://www.cciclub.net/downloads/IT%20ACT%202008.pdf
[viii] Available on, http://www.haltabuse.org/resources/stats/index.shtml