Stalking should be made a separate offence under the Indian Penal Code, punishable by upto seven years imprisonment.
This would be one of the key recommendations that the women and child development (WCD) ministry to the Justice JS Verma committee set up in the aftermath of the gangrape of a 23-year-old girl in Delhi to review amendments of the criminal law so as to provide for quicker trial and enhanced punishment to criminals in rape cases.
Last year when the home ministry had sought WCD ministry's comments while reviewing the legal provisions pertaining to sexual assault the latter had proposed that stalking should be made a separate criminal offence.
But the provision was kept out of the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill which was introduced in Parliament last month following differences between home and law ministries. Both were of the view that a separate provision for stalking could be misused.
"With such crime against women on the rise we are now recommending that stalking should be incorporated as a separate offence under IPC in the Criminal Amendment Bill," said a ministry official.
Presently, IPC does not define stalking as a separate offence and such cases are dealt with by invoking section 506 (punishment for criminal intimidation) and section 509 (outraging the modesty of woman through word, gesture or act) of IPC. Even the Information Technology act does not specifically define cyber stalking as a crime.
Among its other recommendation, the ministry wants harsher penalty for rape convicts, special cadre on the lines of Central Bureau of Investigation to look into cases of rape and presence of more female law enforcement officers.
It is, however, not recommending death penalty and chemical castration for rape convicts.
"It's an issue where the home and law ministry will have to take a final call," said an official.
WCD minister Krishna Tirath is meeting her counterpart in the home and law ministry on Friday to discuss the ministry's recommendations.