Cyber bullying, under the Information Technology Act, is not an offence. “The Act is outdated. It was last amended in 2008… Since then, social media has exploded in the country. The ground reality of 2017 is vastly different,” said advocate Pavan Duggal, who specialises in cyber law
The last time Ankur (name changed) was on Facebook was in 2013. It’s been four years since the incident, “when a few batchmates hacked my account and sent porn links and dirty messages to some girls from my class, who then complained against me”. Since then, he has avoided social media as it makes him “anxious”, and has been seeking therapy regularly. “My studies suffered… barring my parents and a teacher, no one believed me… My class teacher called me ganda ladka… For my batchmates, it was just fun, they didn’t realise they bullied me,” he said.
Ankur also had few options he could pursue. Cyber bullying, under the Information Technology Act, is not an offence. “The Act is outdated. It was last amended in 2008… Since then, social media has exploded in the country. The ground reality of 2017 is vastly different,” said advocate Pavan Duggal, who specialises in cyber law. Popular social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat, which entered the market only in 2010 and 2011, have also become avenues of bullying. Under-reporting of cases
According to DCP (Cyber Cell) Anyesh Roy, “only three cases involving children and cyberspace have been registered in the last two years”. Children, parents, teachers, child psychologists and cyber law experts The Sunday Express spoke to shed light on why so many cases go unreported. In 2014, Duggal’s law firm conducted a survey which revealed that “for every 500 instances of cyber crime, only 50 were reported to police and of those 50, an FIR was filed only in one case”. “Under-reporting is de facto in India. The first cyber crime conviction was in 2003. From then until now, the number of convictions have been very low. In a country of a billion-plus people, it’s a discouraging number,” Duggal said. The reasons for this are plenty: “People don’t want unnecessary media publicity; the current process is very slow; and there is low confidence in the ability of the system,” he added.
Counsellor Geetanjali Kumar said she has often suggested to parents to “report cases to police but they are hesitant for various reasons — from a lengthy process to the family’s izzat.” Kiran Kumar (43), whose daughter was a victim of cyber bullying, said, “We didn’t file a complaint because legal battles in India are so long drawn… my child is already harassed. If we involve police, it will take her much longer to heal. That’s a risk we don’t want to take.” Loopholes in law
According to UNICEF’s 2016 ‘Child Online Protection in India’ report, “The transnational nature of cyber crime calls for international cooperation”.“The US has often failed to share information vital to dealing with cyber crime. It denies access to data held by companies based in the US — such as Google, Facebook — on grounds that it would be in contravention of its laws,” the report stated, adding that “Indian laws like the Information Technology Act do not apply to US firms.”
In the report, advocate Karnika Seth said, “The extant Indian laws are not sufficient to prevent and combat cyber threats of cyber bullying, cyber stalking and sexual abuse involving sexting and child pornography that children are exposed to in a digital world.”
“Acts such as sexting and cyber bullying, which have been criminalised in other countries, are not as yet considered to be offences under Indian law,” she added. Until 2008, even child pornography was not an offence under the IT Act. When the Act was amended to include it, several offences were made bailable — which cyber law experts called a “historic blunder”. “Conviction rate goes down because it’s easy to delete incriminating evidence when out on bail,” Duggal explained.