Only 41 stalking cases in Tamil Nadu in 2021, says NCRB data. What explains this low number?

South First spoke to retired IPS officers, activists, and other experts to understand why so few stalking cases were reported in Tamil Nadu.

ByShilpa Nair

Published Oct 15, 2022 | 1:28 AMUpdatedOct 15, 2022 | 1:29 AM


The tragic murder of 20-year-old Sathya in Chennai on Thursday, 13 October, has once again brought the focus back to the issue of stalking.

Sathya was pushed in front of a moving train by her stalker named Satish — who had been troubling her over for the last several months over a one-sided relationship — at the St Thomas Mount local railway station in Chennai.

Unfortunately, hours after her murder, her father allegedly died by suicide. While some other reports suggested that he died of a cardiac arrest, police officials said that the cause of death would become clear only after a post-mortem examination.

For the people of Tamil Nadu, especially for residents of Chennai, the murder of Sathya was a chilling reminder of similar cases reported in the last few years.

For instance, in September 2021, a 20-year-old college student named Shwetha was stabbed at the Tambaram railway station by a man named Ramachandran. They had known each other for a few years.

Even though he tried to slit his own throat after killing Shwetha, the locals got a hold of him and handed him over to the police.

Similarly, in June 2016, 24-year-old S Swathi was hacked to death by her stalker P Ramkumar at the Nungambakkam railway station.

These cases triggered a massive debate about the safety of women in Tamil Nadu, and rightfully so. They also highlighted the dangers of stalking as a crime.

What does the NCRB data say?


20-year-old Sathya died after she was pushed in front of a moving train by her stalker. (Supplied)

However, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Tamil Nadu reported only 41 cases of stalking in 2021, which is the lowest among all the South Indian states.

While Telangana reported 1,265 incidents of stalking, Andhra Pradesh registered 1,185 such cases, followed by Kerala (393 cases) and Karnataka (178 cases).

In the country, the maximum number of incidents of stalking in 2021 was reported in Maharashtra, where 2,131 such cases were recorded.

In other words, of the 8,971 incidents of stalking reported across the country, Tamil Nadu accounted for only 41 cases.

This, according to experts and activists, was a very low number, further raising many questions about whether there was underreporting of stalking cases in the state.

What explains the low number?

According to several retired police officials and activists, one of the main reasons the number of registered cases of stalking was on the lower side was the unwillingness of people to file such complaints, owing mostly to the patriarchal mindset of society. Another was the general lack of awareness about the law.

Former Tamil Nadu Director General of Police (DGP) Lethika Saran told South First: “The society as a whole needs to have more awareness about gender, and law. More people will be willing to file a complaint over crimes against women only if society starts realising that the victim is not to be blamed in these cases. A lot of education and awareness is needed for things to improve.”

Similar views were reflected by G Thilakavathy, Tamil Nadu’s first native woman IPS officer.

“It has a lot to do with the values we teach our children,” she explained. “Unfortunately, girl children are advised to be submissive. They are asked to adjust and compromise; not get into police cases, etc,” the retired IPS officer said.

“The family of the girl child thinks their honour is lost if their child gets involved in such cases,” she explained.

Thilakavathy also pointed out that the lower number of stalking cases registered was a serious cause of concern. She, too, said there needed to be more awareness in society about laws related to crime against women.

“Even though the existing laws are sufficient to deal with issues such as stalking, people don’t make use of them because they are simply not aware of them. Society in general, and women in particular, must be made aware of the legal remedies available to them,” she told South First.

As one of the solutions to this issue, she suggested that more police personnel must visit schools and colleges to communicate to the students about such crimes, their consequences, and the existing laws.

Another pertinent point was raised by senior lawyer and activist Sudha Ramalingam. She said: “Many people view stalking as a trivial matter. It is seen next to eve-teasing or other such offences. But these are not trivial issues.”

Ramalingam explained: “The patriarchal mindset says that women don’t have a choice and they have to accept whatever men want. We should equip our girls to be more aware of their rights, and we should equip our boys to be more sensitive.”

Police’s compromise formula

Some believe that another reason for underreporting of stalking cases is also that the police often try to strike a compromise between the two parties, or let the accused off with just a stern warning, and without actually registering a case.

For instance, even in the case of Sathya, a complaint was filed by her mother — who also happens to be a police head constable — against Satish in May after he engaged in a heated argument with the college student and pulled her hair right outside the private college in Chennai where she was studying.

In this case, though, a First Information Report (FIR) was filed against Satish, he was booked only under Section 75 of the Madras Police City Act. No other section was invoked.


Picture of 30-year-old Satish who is the main accused in the case.

A few days after the incident, Sathya’s family filed another complaint at the St Thomas Mount Police Station, which has jurisdiction over the area where both Sathya and Satish lived, over the same issue.

In this case, both families were called in by the cops, and Satish was let off with a stern warning.

The parents of the girl later gave a letter that they did not want to pursue further action in the case, and were satisfied with the warning that was given to Satish.

This, according to sources, was a compromise that was facilitated by the police between the two families as both Sathya’s mother and Satish’s father belonged to the police department. Satish’s father retired as a special sub-inspector.

Many activists and others pointed out that had the police taken stern action against Satish in these two instances, the tragedy that hit Sathya’s family could have been possibly averted.

Expressing her opinion on this aspect, former DGP Lethika Saran stated that when it came to crimes against women, she didn’t agree with such compromise formulas being arrived at by the police.

Cops invoking other sections of the law?

Stalking as an offence was added to the Indian Penal Code through an amendment to the Criminal Law Act in 2013.

With it being a relatively newer legal provision, activist Sudha Ramalingam claimed that some police personnel may not even be aware of the new IPC section.

In other cases, she said, the police might be invoking other sections of the law, such as the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Women’s Harassment Act, instead of IPC Section 354 D, which deals with stalking.

According to her, this was another reason for only a small number of stalking cases being registered in Tamil Nadu.

However, Dr M Ravi IPS, who recently retired in the rank of Director General of Police, refuted the argument while speaking to South First.

Ravi, who headed the Crimes Against Women and Children wing during his service period, said that the low number of registered cases of stalking was mainly due to the unwillingness of the people to file such complaints.

He also claimed that compared to other states, instances of stalking were fewer in Tamil Nadu.

While emphasising the need to take a proactive approach in spreading awareness about the law and sensitising students from the school level, the former IPS officer added that the law around stalking must also be strengthened.

“Physical stalking and cyberstalking should be a non-bailable offence, and there should be a prison term of at least seven years for crimes such as stalking,” he opined.