Almost two cases of stalking are being reported in Delhi every day since the Centre enacted a law to make it a separate gender offence in April.
Before the new law was enacted, cases of stalking were clubbed with molestation. But following concerns about safety of women after the December 16 gang rape, the Centre made it a separate offence, defining a stalker “as a person who follows a woman and contacts, or attempts to contact her to foster personal interaction repeatedly, despite a clear indication of disinterest by the woman”.
The law says that he could be stalking her on a social networking site, sending emails and text messages, or just watching or snooping on her.
Earlier, most cases of stalking used to be treated as a minor offence. “The police used to simply threaten the stalker on the phone and let him go with a verbal warning,” said a senior officer.
If there was pressure to register a case, it would be under Section 354 of Indian Penal Code (for molestation) that was punishable by one-year imprisonment, the officer added.
However, now, for the first conviction, stalking is punishable with three years in jail and a fine.
For any subsequent conviction, the accused could get five years behind bars. Between April 3 and May 31, the Delhi Police have registered 135 cases of stalking across the city.
The new law also made taking a photograph of or watching a woman ‘engaging in a private act’ without her permission a criminal offence. The police have registered four cases under this law.
Rapes and sexual harassment are still the top crimes against women. Stalking is third on the list.
Sexual harassment is a broad categorisation that includes everything from groping, flashing, verbal abuse and demanding sexual favours and since April, 501 such cases have been reported in Delhi.