I dream of a digital India where cyber security becomes an integral part of our National Security.
Shaivi, a twenty-year-old girl was fond of clicking her pictures and uploading them on Facebook. She believed posting pictures was a form of expression and through her pictures she wanted to remind her friends and family to smile and be happy. A month ago she posted a few pictures and instantly received a message from a friend named Vashish on Facebook. At first she couldn’t recognize who it was, but after some effort she realized that it was someone she had met in her Math tuition. Shaivi opened the message and it read ‘ this dress makes you look even more beautiful! I would love to be friends with someone as pretty as you are.’ Shaivi, felt a little uncomfortable with this comment, but didn’t pay much attention to it and ended the conversation with a simple thank you.
The next day when Shaivi posted another picture, immediately she received a message from Vashish. This time what Shaivi read, shocked her to her core. The message read ‘ Wow, love that body of yours. I wish you didn’t wear so many clothes to hide it’. Shaivi didn’t know what to do and decided to message him to stop sending her messages and never comment on her pictures again.
Few hours later, she saw a message from Vashish, asking her to be his girlfriend and to send him intimate (nude) pictures. Shaivi continued to ignore his messages. Few hours later, Vashish spammed Shaivi, by repeatedly asking her to send her intimate pictures and threatened that if she didn’t send them soon, he will ensure she pays a heavy price for it. Shaivi, was completely broken and felt helpless. She wanted to stop this torture but she did not know what to do and whom to ask for help.
The very next day, Shaivi saw a message from Vashish. He had sent her a naked girl’s picture with Shaivi’s face morphed into it. Vashish gave her one last warning and said ‘If you don’t send me what I am asking for, I will make sure all your friends and family see such naked pictures of yours’.
Shaivi burst into tears and almost decided to send her comprising pictures of Vashish thinking that all this will stop. But Shaivi couldn’t gather the courage to do it and decided to inform her parents about her situation. When Shaivi told her parents, instead of receiving some assurance from their end, she was made to feel like it was her fault to upload pictures on social media and have male friends on Facebook. She couldn’t believe that a harmless activity like posting pictures on the social-media can lead to such grave consequences.
Shaivi ran to meet her best friend, Ashni, because she was sure, Ashni would understand her situation. When Ashni heard about what all had happened with Shaivi, she immediately took her to a nearby One Stop Centre (“OSC”), whose objective is to support women affected by any kind of violence, abuse, they also facilitate services such as legal, psychological, medical and counseling support. The OSC then called Shaivi’s parents to inform them that she was a victim of Cyber Stalking, Morphing and other cybercrimes. The workers at the OSC explained Shaivi’s parents not to blame her as she had no fault in it and that they should support her because such crimes could severely affect her mental health and cause long time mental trauma.
Shaivi was then told about how she could resolve this menace with the help of legal recourses available to her. Firstly, she was informed that she could access the National Cyber Crime Portal (https://cybercrime.gov.in/) to register her complaint online. She also had the option of contacting the helpline (155260) started by the Ministry of Home Affairs to deal with cyber-crimes. Finally, she can report her crime in any police station as there are cyber cells and cyber police stations in each district of India. The OSC workers then informed Shaivi about the relevant provisions under which her perpetrator could be punished.
- Section 354D of Indian Penal Code (“IPC”): It defines ‘stalking’, which includes both the physical/offline stalking as well as cyber/digital stalking. It mentions that if anyone attempts to monitor the activities of a woman on the internet, that amounts to stalking and the stalker shall be guilty under the purview of Section 354D of IPC.
- Section 509 of IPC: This relates to insulting the modesty of a women, a stalker can be booked under this section, if he obstructs the privacy of a woman by making any sound, gesture, or uttering any word sent through social media, e-mails etc. If a person commits such act he shall be held guilty under this section.
- Section 292 of IPC: This defines ‘obscenity’, if under cyber stalking the stalker is sending obscene materials to the victim on a social networking site or on the internet, the stalker attempts to malign the other person on internet backing with the intention that the other person would read, see or hear the content of such material then he shall be guilty of the offense under Section 292 of Indian Penal Code. This section is analogous to Section 67 of Information Technology Act (“IT”).
- Section 67A of IT Act: If a stalker attempts to publish or threatens to publish any sexually explicit material in digital form, then he shall be punished under this section.
- Section 43 of IT Act: This section includes acts of unauthorized downloading/copying/extracting and destroying/altering data. It could be mainly used against the offence of morphing as in the case the stalker has also threatened Shaivi with morphed pictures of her.
After hearing the legal recourses available to her and the support she received from her parents and the worker at the OSC, Shaivi immediately filed a complaint against Vashish. Even after the cyber cell caught her perpetrator, Shaivi is still in a dilemma, whether to ever post her picture again or not as she still fears the consequences it might have.
If you face any such act on cyber, just like her
Do not hesitate to be smarter, even if you are a minor
Because if not, you will forever suffer with this on your shoulder
Let them conspire, but remember you are wiser and stronger
We all collectively can decipher such sinister gangster, and make them surrender
We will work harder to end this monster of crime on cyber
–Adya Garg and Naivedhya Kala