New Delhi, March 21: When an all-party meeting discussed stringent provisions against stalking last year, Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav had prophesied the death of romance.
“Mohabbat to ab khatam hi ho jaayega. Ladka jab ladki ke taraf dekhega nahi aur uska peechha nahi karega to mohabbat hoga kaise (Romance will die now. If a boy doesn’t look at a girl or follow her, how can romance happen)?” Yadav had wondered.
Not many were amused then. A year on, neither was a Delhi court that has sentenced a young man to six months in jail for chasing a schoolgirl with repeated entreaties of “I love you”, calling her “beloved” and making statements loaded with sexual innuendoes.
Besides serving rigorous time, the youth will also have to pay a fine of Rs 1,000.
Jai Prakash, 22, who works in a television repair shop, claimed to be in love with the girl.
The sessions court judge, Pawan Kumar Jain, refused to buy the lovelorn youth’s reasons behind stalking the minor girl, pointing out that unchecked, such tendencies could lead to graver crimes.
“Crime against women begins with eve-teasing and stalking. To teach the accused a lesson, it is imperative to give strict punishment to people like him. It is the only way to safeguard women from such roadside Romeos,” Jain said last week while hearing the case.
The stalking dates back to April 2013, when the then 15-year-old girl was continuously followed by Prakash on her way to school and harassed through innuendoes.
According to statements by the girl’s parents in court, they decided to shift her to Siliguri to stay with her brother as she had stopped going to school because of the harassment.
Prakash begged for the court’s leniency, saying he was in “love” with the girl and had already “profusely apologised” to her. He told the court that his behaviour was a result of the “passions of youth”, and he has since then “reformed” himself by not harassing her any more.
The court said: “No doubt, the accused is a young boy of 22 years having no criminal antecedents. It is also clear from the statement of the victim that after the incident, he had tendered apology to the victim and since then, his conduct has been good. But simultaneously, it is also on record that the convict had used most derogatory language while abusing the victim. Such type of language is not expected from any person in a society governed by rule of law.”
The court added: “One cannot even imagine the trauma faced by a female against whom such language is used in front of public at large.”
The court found Prakash guilty of sexual harassment under Section 12 of the Protection of Children Against Sexual Offences (Pocso) Act.
For the first time, this section makes utterances, words, sounds and gestures with sexual intent that are heard or seen by any child a crime. The punishment can go up to three years of rigorous imprisonment with a fine. A parallel provision was introduced last year for adult victims through an amendment bill.
The court also found Prakash guilty under IPC sections. However, separate sentences under the IPC sections were not pronounced as the same crime was covered under the Pocso Act.
Told of the verdict and asked for a response, Yadav, the JD(U) leader, said this evening: “I have already made my stand clear during the all-party meeting. Now it is for society to decide. Laws are not made like this. Society cannot run on laws is all that I will say. I stand by what I had said then.”