Legal Article

Cyberstalking: Its Nature, Impact on the Younger Generation, and Legal Framework in India

Shivendra Pratap Singh

Advocate

High Court Lucknow

Article | Criminal Law

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Published on: 2 Aug, 2023

Nature of Cyberstalking:

Cyberstalking refers to the use of the internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass an individual, group, or organization. It may involve false accusations, defamation, slander, and libel. It may also include monitoring, identity theft, threats, solicitation for sex, or gathering information that may be used to threaten, embarrass or harass.

Impact on the Younger Generation:

  1. Emotional and Psychological Trauma: Victims, especially young ones, often experience symptoms of anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
  2. Online Distrust: Victims may become wary of online interactions, cutting off a vital resource for communication, education, and socialization in today’s digital age.
  3. Impact on Personal Relationships: Being a victim can strain relationships with friends and family due to the associated shame or the victim’s withdrawal from social activities.
  4. Decreased Academic or Work Performance: The emotional toll can result in diminished academic or work performances.
  5. Physical Health Implications: Stress and anxiety can lead to a host of physical health issues, from sleep disturbances to more severe conditions.
  1. Information Technology Act, 2000:
    • Section 66A: Punished for sending offensive messages through communication service, etc. This section, however, was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2015 for being unconstitutional.
    • Section 67: Punishes for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form.
    • Section 72: Penalizes the breach of confidentiality and privacy.
  2. Indian Penal Code, 1860:
    • Section 354D: Stalking, which includes monitoring the internet use of another person, is punishable.
    • Section 499: Addresses defamation which could apply to cases of cyberstalking.
    • Section 507: Criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication.
  3. Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986: Prohibits indecent representation of women through advertisements, publications, writings, paintings, figures, or in any other manner.

While there are relevant provisions in the legal framework of India that can be applied to cases of cyberstalking, especially against younger victims, there is still a need for more specific and stringent laws. Given the evolving nature of technology and the modus operandi of cyberstalkers, the laws must be updated periodically.

Conclusion:

Cyberstalking is an invasive breach of privacy and a significant threat, particularly for the younger generation growing up in an era of digital communication. The psychological and emotional ramifications are deep-seated. While India has a foundational legal framework to address cyberstalking, it’s crucial to continuously refine this framework and raise awareness about the nature and dangers of online harassment.