Chandigarh stalking: The case follows a familiar script | editorials | Hindustan Times
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Chandigarh stalking: The case follows a familiar script

One of the reasons why stalking cases continue to increase in India is because women, unlike the lady in Chandigarh, do not come forward to reports such cases; the targets are often picked for their vulnerability.

editorials Updated: Aug 07, 2017 16:50 IST
Though the National Crime Records Bureau  did not report data for Section 354D in 2013, it said 346 FIRs were pending investigation by policemen in the beginning of 2014. Thereafter, 4,699 stalking cases were registered in that year, and 6,266 FIRs were registered in 2015.
Though the National Crime Records Bureau  did not report data for Section 354D in 2013, it said 346 FIRs were pending investigation by policemen in the beginning of 2014. Thereafter, 4,699 stalking cases were registered in that year, and 6,266 FIRs were registered in 2015.(Illustration: Sudhir Shetty)

Last week, a young woman was driving back from work. Two drunken men stalked her but she managed to alert the police and file an FIR. The two were arrested but got bail within a day. Does this sequence of events seem unusual? It’s not. There have been so many episodes with similar scripts that it did not surprise us. However, the Chandigarh stalking case will, hopefully, not end tamely.

The victim is the daughter of a senior IAS officer (who has promised to pursue it) and one of the accused, Vikas Barala, is the son of Haryana BJP chief Subhash Barala, making the case one tailor-made to generate strong public interest .

But first things first: A person can be booked for stalking under Section 354D of the Indian Penal Code if he follows a woman and contacts or attempts to contact her to foster personal interaction repeatedly, despite a clear indication of disinterest by her. The first offence is bailable and that is what helped the accused get away.

What the Chandigarh police failed to do (under pressure or otherwise) is not adding Section 365 (kidnapping) and 511 (attempting to commit offences punishable with imprisonment for life or other imprisonment) in the FIR registered against the duo, even as the woman in her Facebook post had alleged an attempt to kidnap. Moreover, the police now claim that there was no CCTV footage available that can be used against the accused.

The BJP has not pulled up the father of the errant son either: Not for his son’s hooliganism or for the public shaming of the girl they are now indulging in, using the usual tropes: She had a drink or two and she was according to them, horror of all horrors, out late at night. Haven’t we heard these excuses earlier too? The BJP’s silence is deafening.

Stalking has been on the rise in India. Though the National Crime Records Bureau  did not report data for Section 354D in 2013, it said 346 FIRs were pending investigation by the police in the beginning of 2014. Thereafter, 4,699 stalking cases were registered in that year, and 6,266 FIRs were registered in 2015. This number is just the tip of the iceberg, say experts.

One of the reasons why stalking cases continue to increase in India is because women, unlike the lady in Chandigarh, do not come forward to report such cases; the targets are often picked for their vulnerability.

While arrests are a deterrent, many get bail right away.

According to NCRB data, over 80% of the people accused under the legal section are given bail before even the chargesheet is filed.

The conviction rate for stalking cases continues to fall across India. According to a report in HT, in 2015, 26% of stalking cases ended in a conviction, which is even lower than the previous year when only 35% of cases ended in a conviction.

Unless, this is reversed and police are allowed to function minus political pressure, such incidents will continue to spiral.