The world of internet today has become a parallel form of life and living.
People are now capable of doing things which were not imaginable a few years
ago. The internet is fast becoming a way of life for millions of people and also
a way of living because of growing dependence and reliance of mankind on these
machines. Internet has enabled the use of website communication, email and a lot
of anytime anywhere IT solutions for the betterment of human kind. Internet
though offers great benefit to society, also present opportunities for crime
using new and highly sophisticated technological tools. Today e-mail and
websites have become the preferred means of communication. Although internet is
one of the fastest modes of communication and has spread its sphere, covering
all possible shades of mankind. But as the saying goes, ‘every good side has a
bad side too.’ The same is true with the computer and internet technologies too.
The rapid technological advancements like the internet clearly threaten to leave
the law behind. The open and unregulated nature of the internet and the
irrelevance of geography means that the internet also provides futile ground for
criminal enterprise. The existing criminal law seems to be ill equipped to deal
with this up-gradation in methods and media of committing crime. Cyber-crime has
thus become a reality in India, difficult to detect, seldom reported and even
difficult to prove. Computer related crime lacks a traditional paper audit, is
away from conventional policing and requires specialists with a sound
understanding of computer technology. Paperless contracts, digital signatures,
online transactions and cyber crimes have taken the legal world by surprise.
Traditional laws formulated to govern the simple and less criminal world are
dumb and toothless. Evidence, the foundation stone of the great legal edifice
suffers jolt. The biggest blow is given by lack of visual evidence. The internet
matrix has disturbed the legal ambiance whereas the legal provisions are chasing
the cyber criminals who are resorting to new modus operandi now and then.
The constitution of India guarantees equal right to life, education, health,
food and work to women but the same modesty of women seems not to be protected
in general in the Information Technology Act, 2000. There are no specific
provision in the IT Act, 2000 that specifically deal with the crime against
women as does the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, the Constitution of India
or the Code of Criminal Procedure for that matter.
In a recent development, the government constituted an expert group to study the
gaps and challenges in handling cybercrimes and prepare a road map for
effectively tackling cybercrimes and based on the group’s recommendations, the
Cyber Crime against Women and Children (CCPWC) scheme has been approved by the
The substantive provision of Section 77 of the IT Act provides that the
provisions of Indian Penal Code will still apply to all the circumstances and
that the penalty under any provision of the IT Act do not release the offender
from the liability under any other law.Crimes which are especially targeted
against women may be enumerated as cyber- stalking, cyber defamation, cyber sex,
dissemination of obscene material and trespassing into one’s privacy domain is
very common now-a-days.
‘Stalkers are strengthened by the anonymity the internet offers.He may be on
the other side of the earth, or a next door neighbour or a near relative!’
The internet mirrors the real world. That means it also reflects the real life
and real people with real life problems. Cyber stalking usually occurs with
women, who are stalked by men. There is no universally accepted definition of
cyber stalking. It involves following a person’s movements across the Internet
by posting messages (sometimes threatening) on the bulletin boards frequented by
the victim, entering the chat-rooms frequented by the victim, constantly
bombarding the victim with emails etc. In general, the stalker intends to cause
emotional distress and has no legitimate purpose to his communications. He does
not need to leave his home to find or harass his target, and has no fear of
physical violence since he believes he cannot be physically touched in cyber
space. The batterers thus surreptitiously place their target under constant
surveillance without her knowledge and use the information to threaten her or
discredit her by putting misinformation on the internet.
Typically a cyber stalker’s victim are new on the web, and inexperienced with
the rules of netiquette and internet safety. It is believed that over 75% are
females. The figures are more on assumed basis and the actual figure can never
be known since most crimes of such nature goes unreported. Given the enormous
amount of personal information available through the net. A cyber stalker can
therefore easily locate private information about a potential victim with a few
mouse clicks or key strokes.
A study conducted on 72 women by Megha Desai and K. Jaishankar titled 'Cyber
Stalking - Victimization of Girl Students: An Empirical Study', states that
12.5% of the respondents had intimate relationship with their cyber stalker
before the stalking started. According to the research, 62.5% of harassment
started through emails and online chats.
The investigating agency and psychologists both agree that stalking has become
more rampant with the advent of unregulated internet. In the recent NCRB 2016
statistics, amongst all South Indian metros, Hyderabad had a whopping 74 cases
when Bangalore faired with 45 and Chennai 10 making Hyderabad the stalking
capital of South India. Stalkers want a cloak of anonymity and what better place
to enjoy anonymity than the internet? A majority of the cases coming to fore
have some element of cyberstalking as well, with assailants leaking pictures —
sometimes even morphed ones — on the internet, or hacking into accounts and
using multiple email IDs and IP addresses to do the same. Though it may be more
rampant, tracking virtual stalkers may be simpler than putting the real life
stalkers behind the bars. That is because if the stalking is done via electronic
means, then tracing an IP address is enough to prove the crime of the assailant.
Said so, it becomes the duty of the womanto lodge a complaint as it is very
important for police to initiate any action. For lodging a suo-moto case in
stalking crimes, evidence collection is tricky as it's not possible to put in so
much manpower to look into each case without any tip off.
Unfortunately, both the victims and sometimes even the police wait until things
take a grave turn to act and that's precisely what happened in the case of a
13-year-old girl who went missing from the Old City of Hyderabad in August 2017.
She was being stalked and harassed by a 22-year-old for over 6 months. But only
when she was abducted by him and taken to Gulbarga did her parents finally file
a police complaint. 'If I can use a knife to slit my hand, I can use it to slit
your throat too' the offender had told her, recounted the girl, upon being
rescued.’ There is no other way to fight this menace than by bringing these
perpetrator to the book.
Ritu Kohli’s Case: Warning Bell To The Government
Ritu Kohli’s case was India’s first case of cyber stalking reported in India.
The victim complained to the police against the person, who was using her
identity to chat over the internet she further complained that the perpetrator
was also giving away her address online and using obscene language. Her contact
details were also leaked leading to frequent calls at odd hours. Consequently
the ‘IP’ address was traced and police investigated the entire matter and
ultimately arrested the offender, Manish Kathuria.
The police had registered the case under Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code
for outraging the modesty of Ritu Kohli. But Section 509 of the Indian Penal
Code only refers to word, gesture or act intended to insult modesty of a woman
and when same things are done on internet, then there is no mention about it in
the said section. None of the conditions mentioned in the section covered cyber
stalking thus, Ritu Kolhi’s case was analarm to the Government,to make laws
regarding the aforesaid crime and regarding protection of victims under the
As a result Section 66A was added in Information Technology Act, 2008 (ITAA
2008) and it prescribes imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years
and with finefor sending offensive messages through communication service etc.
For the purposes of this section, terms “Electronic mail” and
“Electronic Mail Message” means a message or information created or transmitted
or received on a computer, computer system, computer resource or communication
device including attachments in text, image, audio, video and any other
electronic record, which may be transmitted with the message.”
Likewise the Indian Parliament made amendments to the Indian Penal Code, 1860
introducing cyber stalking as a criminal offence. The Criminal Law (Amendment)
Act 2013 added Section 354 D in IPC, 1860. It defines Stalking as a man who
follows or contacts a woman, despite clear indication of disinterest to such
contact by that woman, or monitoring of use of internet or electronic
communication of a woman.
A man or a woman committing the offence of stalking would be liable for
imprisonment up to three years for the first offence, and shall also be liable
to fine and for any subsequent conviction would be liable for imprisonment up to
five years and with fine.
The internet and social media are certainly a great thing for people and society
in general, but they are also uniquely effective breeding ground for potentially
As India, burgeons as an information super power, the internet related issues
concerns the country equally well and it being a democracy as well, freedom of
speech and expression is also preserved as a fundamental constitutional right.
Defamation in India is regarded both as a tort and as a crime. It harms the
reputation and prestige of a person and makes the wrong doer equally liable as
harming the body of the person. The personal prestige of a person is jealously
guarded by law. Like any other criminal activity, defamation also received a
boost and crime rate went up as the electron became the powerful medium of
proliferation of information weather healthy or incriminating.
Cyber defamation also called Cyber smearing can be understood as the intentional
infringement of ‘another person's right to his good name. ’Cyber Defamation
occurswith the help of computers and / or the Internet.It is considered more
of a menace owing to its expeditious nature. A defamatory material could be
distributed among a large number of persons without much hassle. A concrete
proof of the gravity of the offence comes to light much later after the damage
has been attributed. A single false rumour spread through the internet possesses
the ability to cause unanticipated and unprecedented change in the worth of the
woman victim in the eyes of the general public. Women suffer most from it as the
Indian societal structure is such that the modesty, reputation and social
standing of women are delicate.
The internet allows people to speak their mind almost too easily. The internet
is chock-full of interesting web sites where someone could intentionally or
accidentally leave a potentially defamatory comment or post. Just a few of these
locations are: public comments on web sites; blogs and comments to blog
postings; social media like Facebook, Linkedin, and Twitter, and chat rooms or
list servers and e-mail containing defamatory information to all of the person’s
friends. While some web sites screen posts for inflammatory or illegal content,
the screening systems are not geared to examine every post for defamatory
content, and so many defamatory postings end up online.
The IT Act does not expressly talk of cyber defamation. Though it provides for
punishment to a person who transmits or publishes or causes to be published or
transmitted, any material which is obscene in electronic form, on first
conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend
to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh and in the event of
subsequent conviction with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years
and with fine which may extend to ten lakh. However this provision chiefly seems
to aim at curbing the increasing number of child pornography cases and does not
encompass other crimes which could have been expressly brought within its ambit
such as cyber defamation, well that is a debatable topic.
However, Section 499 of the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 exclusively talks
of defamation. It states whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read,
or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation
concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe
that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said . . . to
defame that person. Here it is envisaged that the definition of ‘publishing’ is
wide enough to take within its ambit, statements made on the internet.
S.499 IPC together with S.4 of IT Act gives recognition to electronic records.
Therefore S.499 of IPC read with S.4 of IT Act bridges the gap and provides
relief in situations in cases of cyber defamation. Hence, defamatory material
posted on the internet using emails or social networking websites, it could draw
the attention of S. 499 of Indian Penal Code. The most important question of
whether writing on the internet amounts to ‘publication’ or not? To examine this
question it is essential to examine the distinct sites where defamation may
1) One To One Mail Message
Email is remarkably quick and easy to use
method of correspondence. It has a close resemblance to spoken conversation
rather than written interaction. Psychologically, electronic interaction
combines a sort of deceptive intimacy. There is a tendency to make inappropriate
statements. Hence email senders are dangerously prone to making defamatory
These are discussion forums that are made up of comments
from their subscribers and sorted out by subject matter. Hence, any comment
posted to Usenet’s news groups is virtually guaranteed to be published and read
within days in hundreds of countries across the world. Newsgroups are the most
problematic from the point of view of defamation.
3) World Wide
Web The world wide web is the largest growing component on
internet. It combines a user friendly interface with freedom of articulation and
information. This results in people who have no knowledge of law of defamation
writing defamatory statements without appreciating their potential liability.
4) Mailing List
The format of an electronic mailing list is that various
parties subscribe by email to it. It is administered by a ‘Central Host.’ In
mailing list the user sends mail to every member of the list. This increases the
possibility of being liable for defamation.
Statements made on mailing lists, UseNet’s and the world wide web would
definitely be defamatory in nature as they would be, by definition, available to
persons other than the person they refer to.
Here it is important to note that, since the matter originated by the ‘defamer’
can the intermediary be also held liable for making it, as it is him who has put
the defamatory statement on to his Bulletin Board and can he be regarded as the
publisher of the material is a tricky question? The position of a service
provider is much more powerful when compared to the publisher of the newspaper
and magazines, hence the liability of service provider, so far as the offence of
defamation is must , be strict and should not be susceptible of being lost in
the legal jargon. As the matter of defamation, the exemption given to a service
provider in Section 79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 on the basis of
absence of knowledge of incriminating material is as in matter of publication of
defamatory statement the law under section 499 is strict and various judicial
decisions also signifies that the publisher cannot escape liability under the
simple pretext of being unaware of disputed material, perhaps this is because
murdering a man’s reputation by libel may be compared to murdering man’s person,
all who were present and encouraging the act are guilty though the wound was
given by one alone. Thus the publication carries with it direct and
unconditional responsibility to the content published.
Unfortunately cyber defamation is not defined by the IT Act and it is treated by
the criminal justice system under the same provision of cyber pornography or
publication of obscene material on internet.
Harassment Via Email
The proliferation of e-mail as the preferred method of communication has given
rise to various issues of concern to the legislators and employers alike. By its
very nature, email encourages people to be frank and open in the discussion and
given the ease with which it is composed and sent, people are ordinarily not as
careful on the email as they would have been, if they had committed the contents
of email to the letter. Harassment via email, includes black mailing,
threatening and constant sending of love letters in anonymous names or regular
sending of embarrassing mails. Email is capable of performing all the functions
of a normal mail (or ‘snail- mail’ as it has been dubbed.)
The criminal law contains various sections that address crimes of verbal abuse
against and the harassment of women example Section 509(IPC), Section 354D of
the criminal law (Amendment) Act 2013 pertains to stalking, explicitly including
crimes that involve monitoring the electronic communication of a woman.The
IT(Amendment) Act, 2008 have inserted Sections 66A; 67A to 67 C. Section 67 A
and B insert penal provisions in respect of offences of publishing and
transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act and child pornography
in electronic form respectively. Whereas Section 67 C deals with the obligation
of an intermediary to preserve and retain such information as may be specified
for such duration and in such manner and format as the Central government may
In 2001, a young man in the 11th Grade was convicted under section 509 for
making vulgar remarks about female classmates on a website called Amazing.com.
It was not only a successful use of Section 509 to curb online harassment, but
the first time a minor had been booked under the law.
There are, thus, various provisions that pre-exist the Internet which women can
draw on to fight online abuse without having to inscribe themselves in the
problematic discourse of the obscenity and indecency laws or off section 66A.
However, the question remains: can a woman choose to use another law in lieu of
Even though S 67, prescribes punishment for publishing or transmitting of
material containing sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form. In
contrast,66A is a cognisable offence – where the police decide whether or not a
crime has been perpetrated under it, rather than a magistrate – a woman may
argue for another law (or set of laws) to be used when she goes to register a
complaint; however, given the mistrust of and unfavourable experiences with the
police the extent to which women will be willing and able to make these
arguments with success is perhaps questionable. Ultimately, the decision is in
the hands of law enforcement, for whom the grounds on which someone may reject
Section 66A may be a subject that seems as alien as unnecessary. Generally
the crime of harassment is regulated by general laws and not by the provisions
of the IT Act.
"Nothing can more efficiently destroy a person, fizzle their mind, evaporate
their future, eliminate their potential or destroy society like
pornography.” - Kamlesh Vaswani
Section 67 of the Information Technology Act makes publication, transmission and
causing to be transmitted and published in electronic form any material
containing sexually explicit act or conduct, punishable. This means viewing
Cyber pornography is not illegal in India. Merely downloading, viewing and
storing such content does not amount to an offence. However publishing and
transmitting cyber pornography via instant messaging, emails or any other mode
of digital transmission is an offence. In my opiniononline pornography should
be completely banned as it is responsible for declining values and sexual
permissiveness leading to sex crimes against women and children. As many of
these pornographic sites depict women and children as sex objects, demeaning
their position and showing them as passive recipients of degrading and/or
violent acts leading to unrealistic and artificial expectations and various
forms of physical, mental and sexual abuse. These unrealistic and artificial
representations often pressures the victims to enact or consent to acts which
they find demeaning having negative mental and psychological health outcomes and
An attempt was made by the government in 2015 asking the telecom companies
around the country to block public access to 857 porn sites, citing the need to
protect public morality. Days later, the telecoms minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad,
had to back down and the ban was lifted. Those against the ban argue that the
government has no business to interfere in individual choice; considering
eroticism is a personal choice, the people of the country should have a right to
decide what to watch and what not and the state has no role in it and should not
impose their morals on others. Furthermore, there are various bottlenecks and
challenges beyond government control such as jurisdiction over foreign
pornographic websites, control over foreign internet service providers. The IT
act prohibits and make child pornography an offence but does not talk about
pornography per se. Watching porn at home is not illegal. Saving it on your
personal laptop, smartphone, storage media is also not illegal.
The IT Act does not provide specific wording for blocking of cyber pornography
for public access and one has to include cyber pornography into the definition
of ‘pubic order’ to put check on cyber pornography, where Courts in India have
already interpreted public order as ‘maintenance of Law.’
The cyber pornography is mainly defined under section 66 A E, 67, 67A and 67 B.
All pornography related offences are bailable as per Section 77B of the
Information Technology Act, 2000 the only exception being Section 67 A and 67B.
This is the main reason why the offenders are committing pornography related
offences and still have the audacity to repeat it, as they are entitled to bail
as of right and not to mention the long trial period. These sections of the Act
should be made non-bailable so as to strike fear into the minds of offenders,
this will definitely reduce the crime rate to some extent.
With increasing traffic in the virtual world, the chances of falling prey to
cyber crime loom large all the while, more so in the case of women who are often
seen as soft targets. The categories of online crimes targeting women have
expanded and the wave has neither left India alone. A few more new generation
crimes that are worth a mention here are cyber flames, cyber eve- teasing, and
cyber flirting and cheating.Women in India by and large shy away from reporting
matters, fearing potential negative media publicity, which may irreparably
impact their reputations. The more time women spend online, without being
completely aware of the pitfalls of the internet, the more vulnerable they
become. Women should be more alert to protect themselves from targeted online
# The IT (Amendment) Act, 2008, reduced the quantum of punishment for a
majority of cyber crimes. This needs to be rectified.
# The majority of cyber crimes need to be made non-bailable offences.
# A comprehensive data protection regime needs to be incorporated in the law
to make it more effective.
# Parts of Section 66A of the IT Act are beyond the reasonable
restrictions on freedom of speech and expression under the Constitution of
India. These need to be removed to make the provisions legally sustainable.
# The government should work towards bilateral cooperation with other
countries for exchanging of information on cyber crimes.
# Information Technology( Amendment) Act, 2008
# Ahmed Farooq, ‘Cyber law in India (Laws on internet)’, Pioneer Books.
# Fatima Talat, ‘Cyber Crimes’, Eastern Book Company, Lucknow
# Kamath Nandan, ‘ law relating to computers internet & e-commerce- A guide
to cyber laws and Information Technology Act, 2000’ , Universal Law Publishing
Co. Pvt Ltd.
# Mathan Rahul, ‘The law relating to computer and internet’,
# Kumar Krishna,’ Cyber laws Intellectal property and e- commerce
security’, Dominant Publishers and Distributors
# Reed Chris, ‘Computer law’, Universal law publishing co. Pvt. Ltd.
# Dhupdale Y. Vivek, ‘Cyber Crime in India and Challenges ahead’, Indian
Journal of Law and Justice, Vol I No2 Sept, 2010.
# Dr. Singh Raghuinder & Sood Geetika, ‘Cyber Crime : the new technology
of crime’, Orient Journal of Law and Social Science. Vol V, Iss. 8 July, 2011.
H P University [DS1] [DS2].