Sep 112010
 September 11, 2010  Court, Non-U.S., Surveillance

A suspected stalker has been arrested for clicking a woman on his cellphone at the Netaji Bhawan Metro station, setting the stage for a test case dealing with privacy in public places in the age of ubiquitous digital gadgets.

The accused, a 35-year-old mechanic living near Park Street, has been charged with “insulting the modesty of a woman, by word, gesture or act” under section 509 of the Indian Penal Code.

Section 509 also states that a person is liable to face punishment for “intruding upon the privacy” of a woman. Offences proved under the act are punishable by simple imprisonment for a year or fine, or both.

This is not a case of up-skirting or anything like that. The man (just) took a picture of her while in a public space. The reporter obtained two conflicting opinions as to what is likely to be the outcome of any trial:

“Someone’s privacy is of utmost importance to the person. If anyone takes her photo without her consent, it amounts to violating this privacy and so police have every right to book him under section 509 of the IPC,” said advocate Sourav Ganguli.

But another advocate of the Calcutta High Court, Jayanta Narayan Chatterjee, said the charge against Rao would not stand scrutiny in a court.

“There is no ban on taking photographs of someone in a public place. However, if this picture is circulated among the public, the accused can be tried under the Information Technology Act,” Chatterjee said. “If someone goes to a place of pilgrimage and takes pictures of women taking a dip in the river, can that person be arrested? Not according to me.”

It’s hard to believe that this will be the first case of its kind there and it will be interesting (and important) to see what the decision is.

Read more in The Telegraph (Calcutta).

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