Harassment Through Phone Calls or Internet

Posted On : December 26, 2023
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Harassment through phone calls, messages, and digital platforms is a pervasive issue globally, with alarming statistics emerging from India. This article sheds light on the prevalence of harassment in the country, particularly affecting women, and discusses the various forms of cyber harassment. It explores the categories of cyber harassment, including hate speech, cyberbullying, cyberstalking, online impersonation, doxxing, swatting, revenge porn, and sextortion, emphasizing their impact on individuals and the need for legal protection. Identifying harassment calls is challenging but can be determined by continuous harassment, identity concealment, verbal abuse, and silent calls. The psychological effects of such calls on women are discussed, highlighting the importance of addressing this issue. The repeal of Section 66A of the Information Technology Act is acknowledged as a positive step, but awareness and reporting are essential. Legal remedies in India are detailed, including filing complaints with the police, the role of law enforcement in addressing online harassment, and alternative options if police assistance is insufficient. The article also explores the possibility of civil lawsuits against harassers. Legal provisions under the Indian Penal Code, such as Sections 354A, 354D, 509, 506, and 507, are highlighted to empower victims to seek justice and protection.



Harassment via phone calls, messages, and other communication platforms is unfortunately a prevalent form of abuse, and it can be distressing for those who experience it. Survivors of domestic and family violence often seek an end to this harassment, and some may even consider pursuing legal action against the perpetrators. The situation becomes even more concerning when the harasser is a complete stranger.

An article from "Truecaller" in India revealed the worrying frequency of these instances. It was discovered that at least once a week, 8 out of 10 women in the nation receive inappropriate, sexual, or harassing calls. Cities with large populations, including Delhi, Chennai, and Karnataka, are severely impacted. Surprisingly, only 12% of the affected women elected to report these occurrences to the police; the majority instead decided to block the pestering numbers.

Cyber harassment, also known as online harassment, encompasses various forms of abusive behavior carried out on digital platforms. Cyberbullying, cyberstalking, online impersonation, doxxing, swatting, revenge porn, sextortion, and other behaviours fall under this category. Depending on the specifics of the behaviour and the harm caused to the victim, many of these activities are regarded as crimes under both federal and state law.



Instances of cyber harassment typically fall into the following categories:

  1. Hate Speech: Hate speech is a common type of online harassment that is defined by insulting and discriminatory words or behaviour motivated by hostility towards a person's ethnicity, religion, or gender identity. Slurs, name-calling, and other verbal abuse are common components of hate speech. On social media, it may also be expressed through graphics and memes.


  1. Cyberbullying: Cyberbullying is the intentional and recurrent harm done to a person or group online , often on social media platforms. States have different laws governing cyberbullying, which may carry both criminal and academic penalties.


  1. Cyberstalking: Cyberstalking is another type of online harassment that involves persistently harassing a person with threats, intimidation, and harassment that is both targeted and persistent. False charges, slander, and online vandalism are all examples of it. Federal and state laws both apply to cyberstalking, which is frequently a criminal offence.


  1. Online impersonation: When someone impersonates another person online , they do so without that person's permission and with the intent to injure, intimidate, or commit fraud. Impersonation is widely used in phishing tactics that use phoney social media accounts and can seriously harm a company.


  1. Doxxing: Doxxing is the act of disclosing someone's personal information online with the intention of harassing them. It is common in the gaming and hacking communities, but it may also have an impact on journalists, politicians, and public figures. Depending on the degree of malice and injury caused, doxxing charges can range in severity from misdemeanours to felonies.


  1. Swatting: Swatting is an extension of doxxing, in which someone fabricates a fictitious and threatening situation concerning the victim and informs police enforcement about it, prompting a SWAT team or other law enforcement reaction at the victim's home. Swatting is a serious offence with strong legal repercussions for the offender.


  1. Revenge porn: Revenge porn is the practise of publishing sexually graphic pictures or films of someone without their consent, sometimes by a former spouse or lover. According to state law, it is illegal and can have serious legal repercussions for the offender.


  1. Sextortion: Sextortion is the use of sexually explicit material as a form of extortion or blackmail. The perpetrator frequently makes threats to reveal the material to the victim's friends, family, or workplace if their demands are not satisfied. State and federal laws apply since it is regarded as a severe cybercrime.

It is essential to note that cyber harassment often disproportionately affects specific groups, such as women and people of color. Studies have shown that women, particularly women of color, are more likely to experience online harassment, highlighting the need for stronger legal protections and enforcement against these harmful behaviors


Identifying a harassing call can be challenging, as not all unwanted calls necessarily constitute harassment. However, there are key indicators that can help recognize such calls:

  1. Continuous Harassment: Harassers often persistently call with the intent to cause distress.
  2. Identity Concealment: They may not disclose their identity clearly or honestly, making it difficult to determine who is behind the calls.
  3. Verbal Abuse: Harassing calls may involve offensive language and abuse directed towards the recipient.
  4. Silent Calls: Some harassers may remain silent during the call, creating an atmosphere of unease and discomfort.

It is really worrying how harassing calls affect women. Nearly four out of five women reported feeling irritated or angry after receiving such calls, according to a 2019 study that included 2150 women between the ages of 15 and 35 from 14 different locations. It's important to note that Section 66A of the Information Technology Act of 2000, which made it illegal to broadcast offensive communications through communication services, was upheld by the Supreme Court, which has helped resolve this issue.

Repealing Section 66A was a significant step towards safeguarding individuals from online harassment and abuse, but it is essential to raise awareness about the prevalence of such incidents and encourage reporting to the authorities. Additionally, support services and legal resources are available to help victims of harassment seek protection and justice.



In India, there are legal remedies available to individuals who receive harassment calls, and it's crucial for victims to take appropriate steps to address and report such incidents. Here are the details of the remedies and legal provisions in India:

Reporting the Harassment: The first thing a victim of harassment should do is report the incident to the local police department and submit a formal complaint. The gender of the caller, their voice traits, and the dates and times of the calls are important pieces of information to record. It could be required to file a First Information Report (FIR) with the police if the harassment persists over a prolonged length of time.

When dealing with online harassment, it's important to understand how law enforcement and legal remedies can come into play. Here's a detailed explanation of what actions the police may take and what options victims of online harassment have:


Police Actions Against Online Harassment: In general, law enforcement may be most effective in assisting victims of online harassment under the following circumstances:

Publication of Non-Consensual Sexual Images: If the perpetrator has published explicit or sexual images of you without your consent, this may be a criminal offense, and the police can intervene to investigate and potentially press charges.

True Threats or Specific Threats of Violence: When you have received credible threats of violence that include specific details such as a time, date, or location, the police can take immediate action to ensure your safety and investigate the threats.

Violation of Stalking Laws: In cases where the perpetrator's actions violate state or federal stalking laws, the police can step in to investigate and potentially make arrests based on the evidence.

However, it's essential to note that involving the police in cases of online harassment can be a challenging decision. Not all people may feel secure in reporting such occurrences to the authorities, and not all police forces have a lot of expertise looking into and prosecuting online crimes. If you decide to report online harassment as a crime, be ready to offer supporting documentation and tell police or detectives about your experiences.

Unfortunately, it has been observed that law enforcement's involvement and effective assistance in online harassment cases are relatively rare across the United States.


What If the Police Can't Provide Help ?

If you find that law enforcement is unable or unwilling to assist in your case of online harassment, there are alternative avenues to seek justice and potential compensation for the harm caused by the harasser. One option is to enlist the assistance of a legal team, such as Bosco Legal Services, which specializes in identifying the true identities of online harassers. Bosco collaborates with law firms across the United States experienced in helping victims of cyber harassment seek justice.


Can You Sue Someone for Online Harassment?

You can, in fact, file a lawsuit against a person for civil wrongs (torts) relating to online harassment, such as defamation, harassment, and public exposure of private information that have taken place online. Such lawsuits aim to make the offenders legally accountable for their activities while also compensating the victim for any suffering brought on by these unjust acts. In some circumstances, bringing legal action is also required to expose the identities of those hiding behind phoney internet personas.

Ultimately, whether to involve law enforcement or pursue legal action against online harassers is a personal decision. Victims should weigh their options and consider their own safety and well-being when determining the best course of action.



Indian Penal Code (IPC) provision 354A: This provision deals with offences involving requesting sexual favours or making sexually suggestive comments. - Anyone held accountable for such behaviour faces a maximum 3-year sentence in jail, a fine, or both.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 354D addresses situations in which one party solicits a sexual connection even when the other is not interested in having sex. - The penalty for violating the law may be up to three years in prison, a fine, or both.

The Indian Penal Code (IPC) handles cases in which someone insults another person's sentiments during a phone conversation in Section 509. A fine, up to a year in prison, or both are possible penalties for violators.

Section 506 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with those who commit crimes with the purpose to harm others. - Those found guilty under Section 506 may be sentenced to up to two years in jail, a fine, or both.

Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 507: - The illegal act of threatening a person by communication, which includes sending letters, texts, or other kinds of contact without disclosing the sender's name, is covered under Section 507. - Up to two years in prison may be used as punishment for offenders.

It's essential to remember that these legal provisions are in place to protect individuals from harassment and abuse via phone calls and other communication methods. Victims are encouraged to report such incidents to law enforcement authorities promptly to ensure that appropriate action is taken against the harassers in accordance with Indian law.



Harassment through phone calls, messages, and online platforms is a distressing and prevalent issue, affecting individuals across the globe, particularly women and people of color. While it is disheartening to see the high frequency of such incidents, it is crucial to recognize that legal remedies and protections are available to address this problem.

In India, as in many other countries, there are legal provisions in place to safeguard individuals from harassment, whether it occurs through phone calls or online interactions. These provisions aim to protect the rights and well-being of victims and hold harassers accountable for their actions.

Victims of harassment have several avenues for seeking help and justice, including reporting incidents to the police, filing formal complaints, and pursuing legal action. It is essential for victims to understand their rights and the available legal options, as well as to consider their own safety and well-being when deciding on a course of action.

While law enforcement involvement can be challenging and may not always yield the desired outcomes, there are alternative approaches, such as enlisting the assistance of specialized legal teams, that can help victims identify and hold online harassers accountable.

Overall, addressing harassment, whether offline or online , requires a multi-pronged approach involving awareness, legal protections, and support services. By raising awareness about the prevalence of such incidents and encouraging reporting, society can work towards creating safer online and offline environments for everyone. It is imperative that victims of harassment are aware of their rights and the available resources to help them seek protection and justice.



  1. Understanding the impact of harassment India. https://www.business-standard.com/article/pti-stories/8-out-of-10-women-in-india-have-faced-harassment-via-calls-sms-truecaller-120030501544_1.html
  2. Harassment of women over phone, The Hindu (Updated on January, 2017)
  3. "Stalker alert: 1 in 3 women who use mobiles in India face harassment, receive inappropriate calls", The Economic Times [Last Updated: March 25, 2019]
  4. Criminal Harassment, The Canadian Resource Centre for Victims of Crime. Available at https://www.crcvc.ca/docs/crimharass.pdf
  5. PREVENTING AND RESPONDING TO DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Available at unodc.org/roseap/uploads/archive/documents/vietnam/publication/Trainee_manual_in_English_6-5-11_.pdf


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