Stalking a child on net can land you in jail

Faizan Haider and Neelam Pandey, Hindustan Times, New Delhi | Updated: Dec 07, 2012 02:10 IST

Stalking a minor on a social networking site would be treated as sexual harassment and attract imprisonment of up to three years.

The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act — notified by the ministry of law and justice, it came into effect on November 14 — has come up with harsher penalties to deal with cases of sexual assault against children.

According to Delhi Police, till now such cases were registered under the Information Technology (IT) Act and a minor and adult were in the same category.

“A huge number of minors use the internet and are vulnerable as someone can paste their real or morphed photographs. We have been receiving such complaints and the numbers are increasing every day as there is no strict punishment,” a senior police officer said.

Section E (which deals with sexual harassment and punishment) of the new act states that a person is said to have committed sexual harassment when he/she indulges in activities such as “repeatedly or constantly following or watching or contacting a child either directly or indirectly through electronic, digital or any other means”.

“Stalking a minor on a social networking site or threatening to use her/his real or morphed photos will attract a punishment of up to three years. So far, these acts were dealt under the Information Technology Act,” said Raj Mangal Prasad, child right activist.

The new Act defines different forms of sexual abuse, including penetrative and non-penetrative assault, sexual harassment and pornography. Punishment depends on the gravity and the degree of crime.

Sexual acts committed by ‘people in authority’ such as a family member, police officer, teacher or a doctor will attract a harsher penalty.

“Harsher punishment will be levied in cases of gang-rape and cases of repeated sexual assault by the same person. Under the IPC, all this was covered under section 376, which deals with rape. The new Act has categorised these activities under different heads," added Prasad.