Anti-rape bill goes easy on first-time stalkers, but only if innocent

March 20, 2013

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily of Reuters)

Women have become increasingly worried about their safety in New Delhi after the gang rape and torture of a young woman aboard a moving bus last December. Not for nothing do people call the city India’s rape capital. Beyond the leers and the crass words that men often direct at women walking on the street, fresh fears have arisen over stalkers.

The Lok Sabha passed a bill to toughen penalties on rape and sexual assault on Tuesday, and among its penalties, it would make stalking punishable by jail time. But first-time offenders will be able to avoid being detained till investigation is complete, as the offence is bailable.

That, of course, disappointed many people. “1st time stalkers get bail, so they get out and harass, and maybe attack the woman they were stalking?,” journalist Padmaja Joshi wrote on Twitter. ‏@Neilima wrote, “1st time stalker getting bail will probably lead on a second attack. Only, it’ll be a lot worse than just stalking her.”

But what happens if someone falsely accuses someone of stalking? If the offence is non-bailable, police have the right to arrest or detain the accused stalker before they begin investigating the case, said Vijay Kumar, a lawyer who argues cases before the Supreme Court.

Karuna Nundy, another Supreme Court lawyer, had a different view. “I find concerns of ‘misuse’ come up most often when a law isn’t deeply felt to be legitimate in the first place…”

In at least one case, India revisited a law designed to protect women over concerns that it could be misused. The Supreme Court in 2010 directed the government to reexamine a law against dowries, saying that some women used it to lodge false complaints accusing their husbands and relatives of cruel behaviour.

A government panel in October 2012 said India should tone down the law to prevent the immediate arrest of family members against whom police complaints are filed by their wives.

Men with no thought of stalking on their minds shouldn’t worry, I would imagine. Or maybe they should? The definition of the crime in the bill in question says:

Any man who-

follows a woman and contacts, or attempts to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman; or monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication; or watches or spies on a woman in any manner, that results in a fear of violence or serious alarm or distress in the mind of such woman, or interferes with the mental peace of the woman, commits the offence of stalking.

That last clause caught my attention. I remember that, a few weeks after the gang rape, while going home after work, I was walking behind a woman who was going to the same apartment complex as mine. Though she was talking on the phone, she turned and stared at me four times. I quickly walked past her, thinking all the while, “Does she think I am stalking her? What if she called the police on me?”

Fifty-one percent of women polled in a survey conducted by Hindustan Times in March 2011 said they have been stalked. This is clearly a problem, never mind the anecdotes you will hear if you ask enough women about whether it has happened to them.

The question now is whether allowing bail for first-time offenders is an unforgivable lapse or whether it’s necessary to provide some relief to people who are falsely accused.

A provision of bail for first-time offenders might be better to have on hand from the beginning rather than something to be regretted later.

Kiran Bedi, former police officer and anti-corruption activist, agrees that this gives breathing space to those falsely implicated.

“I think they’ve followed the middle path,” she said, explaining the provision is neither victim- nor accused-centric. “Bailable is striking the balance … now the onus goes on individual prosecutors and individual judges.”

(Follow Aditya on Twitter @adityayk )

(David writes in favour of tougher anti-stalking laws)

One comment

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A highly important law passed in Economical Super Power country of South East Asia India that had no concern about its women folks safety and security in the man dominated social infrastructure to keep the feminine Chastity intact, which is so very important for every women young and old.

Until only three/four months back the government woke up when the population’s united movement threatened the very existence of the government to stay in power. I would try and desist from high lighting the dire failures of the government in all respect to protect the female’s most valuable asset their chastity, which once spoiled by any form is equivalent to have killed that women, particularly in conservative social living structure of the subcontinent.

Now, coming to the main point of effectiveness of Trail on Rape case for conviction it is a must to have the victim of the rape case examined by a gynecologist within 24 hours of the incident of happening. Has the government made any arrangement to that effect for the sake of a fair trail..Has the government made any permanent arrangement with regard to the examining the victim in a country where in every twenty minutes a rape case is taking place, how could a government for the people be so careless in regard to the welfare of its people. The government is depending on the old have and has no facilities for medical examination of the victim in every State.

I would have expected the police head of the country to suggest to the government that what all needs to be done from registering the case, examining the victim, investigating the case and finally submitting charge sheet. All charge-sheeted people must have simultaneously DNA test result done from the same place the examination of the victim is carried out by the gynecologist.

I am sure the female high police officer Kiran Bedi would be an appropriate person to dress up the women folk with the law passed with proper supporting facilities police needed acts time limit. In addition, she would not leave it transparent for the accused to get away by viewing the privates parts through the transparently dressed law without the required supporting facilitating for investigating to get the desired effective positive result. With the present state the accused could get away through the loopholes by the caricature of the lawyers

The government has ultimately tried to view the issue seriously and was compelled to legislate the law to give some sort of protection to the women folk. I would say loudly enough for the government to draw the kind attention of the government and say that the law without providing the mentioned additional the facilities is keeping the Women folks in the open to be raped more often than the prevailing state of affair.

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