Why Anti-Stalking Law Failed to Save Karuna, Swathi and Many More 

For starters, it is a bailable offence. 

3 min read
Hindi Female

Karuna was a school teacher in Delhi. On Tuesday morning, she was stabbed 22 times by 34-year-old Surendar Singh. He had been stalking her for a year and Karuna’s family had filed a complaint around five months ago.

Under Section 354D of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, stalking is a criminal offence. But in most cases, the law is ineffective. Why?

One, it is a bailable offence. And two, it does not address the protection of the victim, after the complaint has been filed.

For starters, it is a bailable offence. 
Source: Crime in India 2015, NCRB (Photo: The Quint/Maanvi)

Stalking is a Continuing Offence

Laxmi was a mother of two, living with her husband in Inderpuri in Delhi. On Sunday evening, she was killed by her stalker, Sanjay Kumar. He had been harassing her for six years. He was out on bail after being arrested on charges of stalking. At the time of the murder, the case was pending in trial. Speaking to The Quint, senior advocate Rebecca John said,

The anti-stalking law is fairly toothless. It does not incorporate monitoring of the accused and protection of the victim. There might be a legislative problem in making stalking a continuing offence, but there should be civil procedures in parallel which reinforce these two things.
Rebecca John, Senior Advocate 
For starters, it is a bailable offence. 
S Swathi, the Infosys employee who was hacked to death at a local train station in Chennai. (Photo Courtesy: The News Minute)

The very nature of stalking means that it isn’t necessarily prevented from occurring again with the arrest of a stalker. Once a stalker is released on bail (which is bound to happen since it is a bailable offence in India), he or she will harass the victim again.

Unless there is a restraining order.

In some cases, a stalker may become more violent after being released and rape or murder the stalking victim.

Also Read: Every Breath You Take: DeQoding The Psyche of A Stalker


Why is It a Bailable Offence?

For starters, it is a bailable offence. 
Priyadarshini Matto was a Delhi University student who was murdered and raped by her stalker on 23 January 1996. A child lights candles in memory of her in New Delhi, 29 October, 2006. (Photo: Reuters)

Stalking was introduced as a criminal offence under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013. But it was introduced as a sub-section to Section 354 which deals with the intention to ‘outrage a woman’s modesty’. In other words, molestation.

Also Read: The Stranger in the Dark: How to Protect Yourself From a Stalker

Which is why imprisonment for stalking is a minimum three years, making stalking a bailable criminal offence. Among other changes in the stalking law, activists have been demanding that the anti-stalking law be made a non-bailable, criminal offence.


Making Stalking More Difficult to Report

There are all kinds of stigma associated with stalking in India. These make reporting stalking much more difficult.

“It must be your fault,” is an oft-repeated comment to the woman. “It is a Western problem,” is another strain of thinking.

And perhaps more disturbingly, “It is not stalking, it is love.” (Thanks to Bollywood stereotypical representations of love.)

For starters, it is a bailable offence. 
Dhanush stalking Shruti Haasan in 3. (Photo Courtesy: YouTube screenshot)

So there is insensitivity towards stalking, stigmatised notions of ‘honour’, a weak law and no assurance from the police that stalking will cease after arrest.

Even if a woman wants to report a stalker, why would she?

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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Topics:  Stalking   Karuna Murder 

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