Tharoor to Present Bill Making Stalking Non-Bailable Offence in LS
Camerapersons: Abhay Sharma, Shivkumar Maurya, Chandan Kashyap
Video Editor: Rahul Sanpui
The Quint’s fight to improve our laws against stalking now reaches Parliament, with a Bill to make stalking a non-bailable offence set to be introduced in the Lok Sabha by Dr Shashi Tharoor on Friday, 3 August.
The Private Member’s Bill, co-drafted by Dr Tharoor’s team and The Quint, seeks to ensure that stalking is taken more seriously and that stalkers are subjected to judicial scrutiny before being allowed out on bail, to minimise the risk of further attacks on survivors. It also includes amendments to the definition of stalking in Section 354D of the IPC to make it gender-neutral and include the safeguards proposed by the Verma Committee.
The introduction of the Bill in Parliament is an important step towards ensuring that these much-needed amendments are made to improve the law. To make this happen, Dr Tharoor has also submitted a detailed proposal drafted by The Quint and his office to Home Minister Rajnath Singh on this issue, for consideration by the Centre.
The Quint’s Talking Stalking campaign encouraged survivors of stalking to come forward and tell their stories. After hearing story after story of horrific incidents, we decided to try and do something which could actually make a difference.
The proposal to amend the law on stalking was drafted after consultation with senior advocate Kamini Jaiswal and inputs from advocate Karuna Nundy and Dr Mrinal Satish. Here’s why Dr Tharoor thinks this issue needs to be taken up and why this measure will help.
‘Talking About Stalking is a Very Good Beginning to Prevent Much Worse Things Later’
Dr Tharoor has previously taken up important issues as Private Member’s Bills and helped increase public awareness about these, for instance when he proposed amending the Indian Penal Code (IPC) to stop the criminalisation of consensual gay sex under Section 377.
In addition to stalking, the Bill also proposes amending the designation of Sections 354A (unwanted sexual contact) and 354C (voyeurism) to make these also non-bailable offences. It also includes amendments to the definition of stalking in Section 354D of the IPC to make it gender-neutral and include the safeguards proposed by the Verma Committee.
Dr Tharoor decided to join the fight against stalking because he feels that it is an “underappreciated crime”, which people tend to think of as a harmless activity even though that’s clearly not the case. Noting how stalking is not just a serious enough crime in itself but can also lead to further crimes, he says:
People who stalk can often develop an unhealthy obsession, which can then translate into acts of violence when they’re rejected, and we’ve heard of acid attacks, we’ve heard of knife attacks, we’ve heard of kidnappings, we’ve heard of all sorts of undesirable things that began as a so-called innocent stalking. So better to nip it in the bud before it gets to a stage where it can become more dangerous.Shashi Tharoor, MP
‘If You Give the Guy Bail, God Knows What He’ll do Next’
Dr Tharoor is firmly of the opinion that designating stalking as a non-bailable offence is needed because:
I am very much sympathetic to the idea that as far as possible, it should be bail not jail, but where the offence is one where somebody is in danger of actually doing something for which he is being charged, then jail makes more sense than bail.Shashi Tharoor, MP
If this amendment is brought in, he feels that this could provide grounds for sending a strong signal to society that stalking is unacceptable – and that there are consequences for doing it. Currently, because stalking is a bailable offence, even if a complaint against a stalker is made to the police, they can get bail without any conditions. If it is non-bailable, a magistrate will have to assess whether the stalker should get bail, and on what conditions.
Need for Public Awareness
Central to taking all of this forward will be increased public awareness. As Dr Tharoor puts it:
I strongly believe in public awareness. I believe strongly in public education, that is ensuring that our youngsters, particularly boys, are given serious gender sensitivity lessons in school from an early age, and I believe in changing the mindset of the society which both of these things will contribute to.
You can also support our initiative to make the law on stalking more effective. Sign our petition with Varnika Kundu on Change.org to stand behind the Bill, and urge Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Women and Child Minister Maneka Gandhi to amend the law.
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