CYBERBULLYING AND REMEDIES UNDER INDIAN LAW

Cyberbullying - Jamila

CYBERBULLYING

Although the internet has provided the maximum advantages to mankind, it comes with its disadvantages as well when misused. Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan is the first case ever to deal with the issue of cyberbullying by the Supreme Court of our country. The times we hear someone (more often a girl/woman) talk about a random fake account sending him/her vulgar and obscene pictures and messages on the internet are beyond imagination. More than ever before, in this world that is constantly updating its technology, cyberbullying has become one of the major serious issues worldwide.

WHAT DOES CYBERBULLYING MEAN?

When either a person or a group of people, through the mode of internet on devices such as phones, computers, etc., threaten, tease or humiliate another, it is called cyberbullying. In layman’s understanding, cyberbullying is as similar as real-world bullying, but with the use of the internet. It consists of acts such as stalking, sending harmful messages or threatening via messages or emails, posting private pictures of someone, hacking others’ accounts, threats of pornography, etc. Targets of cyberbullies are strategically chosen and openly humiliated on multiple social media platforms by sending deeply offensive messages or posting humiliating videos and photos, etc. 

Since the bullies target people on the internet, they have immense power as they can humiliate any person at any hour which makes them a serious threat. Another reason is that the bully’s identity is unknown to the victim in case of cyberbullying which makes it even harder to track down the bully. The fact that 63 percent of bullies are currently under the age of 18 is concerning. According to the findings of an abcnews.com study of 1400 school students in grades 4-8 conducted in September 2006, 42 % had become victims of cyberbullying, with 1/4th having been victims multiple times; 35 % had been threatened, and 21% had received negative or abusive emails or texts.

OTHER FACTS

Microsoft conducted a survey in the year 2015 where it was found that India came in 3rd rank out of 25 countries in the list of online bullying cases.

It has been agreed and noticed by 90% of the children/teens that most cyberbullying cases go ignored and no actions take place against the bullies.

According to a recent survey, 53% of Indian children between 8 and 17 years have been bullied online.[1]

As the effects of cyberbullying or the type of bullying in real life such as depression and other mental illnesses are long lasting, their victim is comparatively more prone to committing suicide.   

REMEDIES IN INDIA REGARDING CYBERBULLYING

Though cyberbullying is a criminal offense, there are no direct or particular statutory laws that deal with cyberbullying. However, there are certain provisions that talk about cyberbullying and are applied in the cases of cyberbullying. These include:

Section 354 (A) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 –

Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment[3]According to this section in the context of cyberbullying, demanding or requesting sexual favors, showing pornography against the will of a woman, and making sexually colored remarks is an offence of sexual harassment and anyone who commits these offences shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which can extend up to 3 years or with fine, or with both.

Section 354 (D) of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 –

This section states that anyone who commits the offence of stalking shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and shall pay fine; and on a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to seven years and with fine which shall not be less than one lakh rupees.  

Section 507 of Indian Penal Code, 1860 –

“Criminal intimidation by an anonymous communication[4]This section states that anyone who commits the offence of criminal intimidation by either anonymously modes of communication or takes precautionary steps to hide the name and information of the person from whom the threat comes shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which can be extended by 2 years.  

Section 66(A) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 –

According to this section, sending messages or any other material that is hurtful, abusive, derogatory, objectionable in nature through the internet is an offence, and the punishment for it

Section 66(D) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 –

Punishment for cheating by personation by using computer resource[5] – this section deals with acts such as cheating, deceiving another person through the internet which is an offence. The punishment for this offence is imprisonment which may extend up to 3 years and a fine of Rs. 1,00,000.

Section 66(E) of the Information Technology Act, 2000 –

According to this section, anyone who with or without any intent, captures, publishes, or shares pictures of a private area of a person without his/her’s consent will be punished since the privacy of that particular person is violated. The punishment is imprisonment which may extend up to 3 years or a fine up to RS. 2,00,00, or both.  

Section 67 in The Information Technology Act, 2000:

“Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form[6]according to this section, whoever uploads, shares or circulates material or information that is offensive, vulgar or obscene on the internet will be punished with imprisonment for up to 5 years or a fine of up to 10 lakh rupees. 

MODES OF CYBERBULLYING

Cyberbullying is quite often performed in a variety of ways, but the main thread is the usage of the internet and often a cell phone or personal computer, as well as the desire to hurt the target. Few of them being:

  1. FLAMING – Exchange of hateful or abusive emails, calls, messages, or comments that are intimidating or abusive in nature between the bully and the victim of bullying is called Flaming. It also includes exchanging someone’s or the victim’s private images/information, sharing violent and threatening messages, and hateful texts.
  2. EXCLUDING – When a group of people through “group chat boxes” exchange and share personal information such as private images, videos, and others or when messages that are hurtful or harassing in nature regarding a victim or the targeted person who is excluded from the group, it is called as excluding.
  3. OUTING – When an individual’s personal photo or details is purposefully distributed to the general public or posted to a social media website with the aim of harassing, retaliating, or simply bullying for entertainment, it is referred to as outing. The individual whose details or images have been widely distributed is referred to as “outed.”[7]
  4. IMPERSONATING – Pretending to be someone else or making a false profile on social media or another website is known as caricaturing, impersonating, or trying to masquerade. This is usually performed to harm the individual that is being impersonated by the bully’s name or identity.

CASE

Sharat Babu Digumarti v. Government of NCT of Delhi – On the same day DPS MMS was put up for sale on Bazee.com, the petitioner was employed as Senior Manager, Trust, and Safety, BIPL. That is the office in charge of the Portal’s security, which involves blocking users and deleting items on suspect lists when they are identified by our clients. It was decided that there is prima-facie enough evidence of petitioner’s participation to move against him for an offence punishable under Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code. Despite the fact that he had already been cleared of all charges under Section 67 of the IT Act, Section 85 of the IT Act, and Section 294 of the IPC.

Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan – Bhanwari Devi served as a social worker in a program developed by the Rajasthan state government to combat the scourge of child marriage. Bhanwari Devi attempted her hardest to prevent child marriage in one of Ramakant Gujjar’s family during the protest. Despite intense opposition, the wedding was successful in its execution. Ramakant Gujjar and his five men gang-raped her in front of her spouse in 1992 to exact revenge. The police officers attempted to prohibit them from filing the case on various grounds, but she persisted and filed a lawsuit against the accused.

They were, nevertheless, exposed to severe brutality by female police officers, to the point where her lehenga was demanded from her to obtain proof, and she had been left with nothing except her spouse’s blood-stained dhoti. Their appeal to stay overnight in the police station was also denied, contributing to their suffering.

The court stated that under Articles 14[2], 19[3](1)(g) and 21[4] of the Indian Constitution, any profession, trade, or occupation must offer employees a safe and healthy work atmosphere It hindered the right to life as well as the right to live a dignified life. The most basic provision was that a safe working environment is available at the workplace.

Following this argument, the Supreme Court clarified the word “sexual harassment,” stating that “any physical touch or conduct, display of pornography, any unpleasant taunt or misbehavior, or any sexual desire against women, or sexual favor” would be considered sexual harassment.

 Author(s) name: Jamila (Symbiosis Law School, Pune)

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[1]https://www.hindustantimes.com/delhi/shame-india-comes-third-in-cyber-bullying/story-iIlM4ExdLMSxKKhRjzn5hK.html

[2] National Crime Records Bureau via IndiaSpend

[3] Indian Penal Code, 1860, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India)

[4] Indian Penal Code, 1860, No. 45, Acts of Parliament, 1860 (India)

[5] The Information Technology Act, 2000, No. 21, Acts of Parliament, 2000 (India)

[6]  The Information Technology Act, 2000, No. 21, Acts of Parliament, 2000 (India)

[7] https://www.endcyberbullying.org/5-different-types-of-cyberbullying/

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