Fact Check: Does Section 354D say that you can go to jail for staring at a woman for 14 seconds?

A reel on Instagram with the caption “You actually go to jail for staring at a woman for 14 seconds” has become very popular on social media. The above sentence is followed by another caption which mentions “Section 354D IPC (Deals with stalking)” as the source of this information.

When last accessed on 5th April, 2021 at 1 pm the video had over 3930 likes. This video reel was shared by an instagram account  ‘ilawputra’ with more than 38.5 thousand followers on the medium. The credit for the reel was given to another instagram account with the handle @lawsarvayoni.

The video can be accessed on the link given below:

https://www.instagram.com/reel/CNCfpeAJEuO/?igshid=1wakx12ghpl0q

We have archived the link of this reel here.

Let us find out if the facts of this reel are factually correct or not by checking what Section 354 D of the Penal Code, 1860 states. Section 354D was added to the Penal Code by the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 which was enforced after public outrage which followed the rape and murder of Nirbhaya in Delhi.

Section 354 D is defined as follows:

Stalking

(1) Any man who—

  1. follows a woman and contacts, or attempts to contact such woman to foster personal interaction repeatedly despite a clear indication of disinterest by such woman; or
  2. monitors the use by a woman of the internet, email or any other form of electronic communication,
    commits the offence of stalking;

    Provided that such conduct shall not amount to stalking if the man who pursued it proves that—

    1. it was pursued for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime and the man accused of stalking had been entrusted with the responsibility of prevention and detection of crime by the State; or
    2. it was pursued under any law or to comply with any condition or requirement imposed by any person under any law; or
    3. in the particular circumstances such conduct was reasonable and justified.

(2) Whoever commits the offence of stalking shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and shall also be liable to fine; and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years, and shall also be liable to fine.

If we read the contents of this section, nowhere have the words ‘fourteen seconds’ been used. Therefore, we can safely say that the information mentioned in the reel is incorrect. So what could be the possible source of this seemingly wrong information?

A basic google search lead me to news reports of 2016 where Kerala Excise Commissioner Rishi Raj Singh had said at an event in Kochi that staring for more than 14 seconds could get a person prison-time.  “A case can be filed against men who ‘annoyingly’ stare at women for more than 14 seconds,” he had said. Mr Singh had not mentioned the source of his comment anywhere and was in fact even trolled on social media for uttering such words without any authentic source.

Next, I did a search on SCC Online to check whether the ‘fourteen second rule’ has been observed by any court of law in any case. The search did not yield any relevant results.

Therefore, I can safely say that there is no ‘staring for fourteen seconds rule’ mentioned in the law books, however, if a woman feels uncomfortable by being stared at, she should file a complaint and let the police examine the facts and circumstances of the particular case and proceed accordingly.

The reel is clearly giving out wrong information as there is no mention of the ‘fourteen seconds rule’ in Section 354D  of the Penal Code, 1860.

 

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