Varnika Kundu, survivor of the infamous Chandigarh stalking case earlier this year, has started a change.org petition in association with The Quint to make stalking a non-bailable offence.
Once the petition hits 1,50,000 signatures, Congress Member of Parliament Shashi Tharoor will present it as part of a private memberâ€™s bill during the Winter Session of Parliament. It will also be delivered to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Union Minister for Women and Child Development Maneka Gandhi.
On August 5, 2017, 29-year-old Kundu was stalked and harassed by two men in an SUV in Chandigarh. The two men were initially charged under section 354 D (stalking) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and section 185 of the Motor Vehicle Act. They were also charged under sections 341, 365 and 511 of the IPC. Vikas Barala, one of the accused, is the son of a Bharatiya Janata Party leader. Barala and his friend Ashish Kumar did not face any serious repercussions for their act for the first offence of stalking is a bailable one. Following public uproar, they were later charged with attempted abduction, and have repeatedly been denied bail since.
India saw 6,266 incidences of stalking in 2015, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) records. This data, too, may not be accurate according to Scroll.in, as NCRB has a disclaimer called the â€˜principal offence ruleâ€™, where if many offences are registered in a case, only the most heinous of them will be considered.
In the recent past alone we have seen numerous cases of stalking that have led to murder. In November, a woman and her mother were burnt by her stalker in Chennai. He had been following her for some time, and she had constantly rejected his advances. In August, a 20-year-old woman was set on fire by her stalker, who ended up committing suicide. In June 2016, 24-year-old Swathi was hacked to death in broad daylight by a man who used to regularly follow her.
In India, the first offence of stalking is a bailable crime. It may attract imprisonment, which may extend up to three years, and is liable for a fine. A second conviction is not bailable, and can attract imprisonment which may extend up to five years, and is also liable for a fine. Certain states, such as Tamil Nadu, are an exception to this rule. Under the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act, 1998, the penalty for harassing women may extend to three years with a fine which is not less than Rs 10,000.
Citing NCRB data, the change.org petition says that over 80% of people accused of stalking are given bail before the chargesheet is filed.
You can sign the petition here.