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I. Introduction

Cyber Crimes is a global phenomenon and is emerging as a challenge for national and economic security. Severe and new threats accompany the growth of the information society. Inventors of the Internet did not think about its bad behaviour. Nevertheless, human psychology’s criminal mentality started its misuse by using the Internet as a crime tool, which gave birth to “Cyber-crime,” and now the world faces a considerable challenge from these cybercriminals.

The internet world provides every user with all the required information with the fastest communication and sharing tool, making it the most valuable information source. With the numerous advancements in the Internet, crimes using the Internet have also widened their roots in all directions. However, the increased use of the Internet has posed a threat given the increasing number of cyber crimes.

Defining Cyber Crime

Cyber Crimes

The term “cyber-crimes” is not defined in any statute or rulebook. The word “cyber” is slang for anything relating to computers, information technology, the Internet, and virtual reality. Therefore, it stands to reason that “cyber-crimes” are offences relating to computers, information technology, the Internet, and virtual reality. Cybercrime can be defined as “any illegal activity that uses a computer as its primary means of commission. It is an offence that is committed against individuals or groups of individuals with a criminal motive to intentionally harm the reputation of the victim or cause physical or mental harm to him.”

II. Cyber Crime & Women

The traditional Indian society places women in very high regard. The Vedas glorify women as the mother, the creator, and one who gives life and worships her as a Devi or Goddess. The women occupied a vital role. Her subjugation and mistreatment were looked upon as demeaning to the woman and the whole society. However, in modern times women are viewed and portrayed as sex objects; they are treated as inferior to men in various societal spheres and functions; this has created a vast gender bias between the men and women where even the men think that their wrongdoings towards women cannot be penalized.

cyber crimes against women

The expanding reach of computers and the Internet has made it easier for people to keep in touch across long distances. However, the means that enable the free flow of information and ideas over long distances also give rise to a worryingly high incidence of irresponsible behaviour. The vulnerability and safety of women are one of the biggest concerns of any criminal and penal law. However, unfortunately, women are still defenseless in cyberspace. Cybercrime against women is at an alarming stage, and it may pose a significant threat to a person’s security as a whole. There have been numerous reports of women receiving unsolicited emails in recent years, which often contain obscene and obnoxious language.

Every second, one woman in India gets tricked into being a victim of cyber crimes. The online platform is now the new platform where a woman’s dignity, privacy, and security are increasingly being challenged every moment. The cyber-world in itself has a virtual reality where anyone can hide or even fake his identity; this gift of the Internet is used by the criminally minded to commit wrongful acts and then hide under the blanket provided by the Internet.

India witnessed a growth of cyberc rimes and watched helplessly the perpetration of cybercrime against women in particular. Often the laws that were used to combat such crimes set a terrible example and confusion; women victims were hugely discouraged from reporting the crimes by peers; immediate media attention and the attitude of confused government reporting agencies made women victims more traumatized than they were due to cybercrime meted out to them.

III. Types of Cyber Crimes

There are three types of Cyber crimes-

A. Cybercrime against Person

Cyber crimes committed against a person include transmitting obscene messages and harassment of anyone using a computer such as an email, cyberbullying, and cyber-stalking.

B. Cybercrime against Property

The second category of Cyber crimes is crimes against organizations or all forms of property. These crimes include illegal and unauthorized computer trespassing and transmission of important and critical information outside the organization, leading to a significant loss.

C. Cybercrime against Government

The third category of Cyber crimes relates to against Government which includes Cyber Terrorism.


IV. Types of Cyber Crimes against Women

types of cyber crimes

Amongst the various cyber-crimes committed against individuals and society at large, crimes that are specifically targeting women are as follows:

1. Cyber Stalking

Cyber Stalking is one of the most widespread internet crimes in the modern world. The word Stalking means ‘pursuing stealthily.’ Cyber Stalking can be used interchangeably with online harassment and online abuse. It is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass a person. Cyber Stalking 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.) The first conviction in a cyberstalking case against a woman in Maharashtra took place in July 2015 in Yogesh Prabhu v. State of Maharashtra.

2. Harassment via Emails

There is no doubt that email has become one of the most heavily used electronic tools of the last decade. Many people send and receive emails every day. Harassment on the Internet can take place in several ways. One form may include harassment through emails, includes blackmailing, threatening, bullying, constant sending of love letters with anonymous names, or regular sending of embarrassing emails to one’s mailbox.

3. Email spoofing

Email spoofing is a term used to describe fraudulent email activity in which the sender address and other parts of the email header are altered to appear as though the email originated from a different source; it is done by properties of the email, such as the From, Return-Path, and Reply-To fields, ill-intentioned users can make the email appear to be from someone other than the actual sender. Cybercriminals often use this method to extract personal information and intimate images from unsuspecting women. The most famous cyber spoofing case is Gujarat Ambuja’s Executive Case, wherein the perpetrator pretended to be a girl for cheating and blackmailing an Abu Dhabi-based NRI.

4. Cyber Defamation

The term defamation is used to define the injury caused to a person’s reputation in the eyes of a third person. Cyber defamation is the publishing of defamatory material against another person with computers or the Internet. The State of Tamil Nadu v. Suhas Katti is the case related to posting obscene, defamatory, and annoying messages about a divorcee woman in the yahoo message group. Emails were also forwarded to the victim for information by the accused through a false email account opened by him in the victim’s name. The message’s posting resulted in annoying phone calls to the lady in the belief that she was soliciting.

5. Cyber pornography

Searching Porn

It refers to the portrayal of sexual material on the web. Pornography is another threat to females on the Internet. They never know which action of theirs is being recorded and would later end up on the Internet. The DPS MMS Scandal is a very famous case where an MMS clip of a schoolgirl in a compromising situation was made and distributed amongst various internet networks.

A Swiss couple gathered slum children. It then forced them to appear for obscene photographs, which they took, and then uploaded those photographs to websites specially designed for pedophiles. The Mumbai police arrested the couples for pornography. The most recent example is the Delhi Metro CCTV footage leaks case where the CCTV recording couples getting intimate in metro stations and other public places. which police security cameras have recorded has been leaked on the Internet.

6. Morphing

Morphing is editing the original picture by an unauthorized user. When unauthorized users with fake identities download the victim’s pictures and then upload or reload them after editing, it is known as morphing. It was observed that female pictures are downloaded from websites by fake users and again reposted/uploaded on different websites by creating fake profiles after editing them.

The Air Force Balbharati School case of Delhi comes under this category where all his classmates teased a student of the School for having a pockmarked face. He was tired of the cruel jokes, decided to get back at his tormentors, scanned photographs of his classmates and teachers, morphed them with nude photographs, and put them up on a website that he uploaded on to a free web hosting service. The Father of a girl featured on the Website came to know about this and lodged a complaint with the police.

Although a comprehensive regulatory framework regarding laws governing cyberspace, particularly such acts is yet to be framed, there are specific legal provisions under various statutes that can aid a person who is a victim of cybercrime.

The Indian Penal Code, 1860

Before 2013, there was no law dealing with online harassment or crimes against women in cyberspace. The 2013 Criminal Amendment Act to the Indian Penal Code, 1860 by way of Section 354A to Section 354D

  1. Section 354A: A man committing any of the following acts – a demand or request for sexual favours; or showing pornography against the will of a woman; or making sexually coloured remarks, shall be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment, may be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both. In the case of the first two and with imprisonment of either description for a term that may extend to one year, or with fine or both.
  2. Section 354C: It defines ‘Voyeurism’ as including the act of capturing the image of a woman engaging in a private act or disseminating said image without her consent. For the act to qualify as ‘Voyeurism,’ the circumstances must be such where the woman would “usually expect not being observed either by the perpetrator or by any other person at the behest of the perpetrator.” A person convicted under this section is liable to be punished with a fine and imprisonment up to three years on first conviction and seven years on subsequent convictions.
  3. Section 354D: It introduced a provision for Stalking, which also covers cyber Stalking. Stalking means an act where a man follows or contacts a woman, despite a clear indication of disinterest in such contact by the woman, or monitors the cyber activity or use of a woman’s Internet or electronic communication. A man committing the offence of Stalking would be liable for imprisonment up to three years for the first offence and shall also be liable to a fine and for any subsequent conviction would be liable for imprisonment up to five years and with fine.

Other than the specific amendments that have been made to the Code, there exist certain other provisions under which cyber crimes may be reported, or the accused may be charged. These are:-

  1. Section 499: To defame a person is to do an act with the intention of harming the reputation of the person. Defamation by the publication of visible representations of an imputation concerning the woman, when done with the intention to harm her reputation, is punishable with imprisonment for a term, which may extend to two years, or with a fine, or both.
  2. Section 503: Threats made to any person with an injury to her reputation, either to cause alarm to her or to make her change her course of action regarding anything she would otherwise do/not do, is punishable as criminal intimidation. The act of blackmailing a person on the Internet, as was done in the case mentioned above, can be brought within the ambit of this provision.
  3. Section 507: This provision provides the quantum of punishment for Criminal Intimidation when the same is a person whose identity is not known to the victim. Any anonymous communication, which amounts to criminal intimidation under Section 503 stated above, is punishable under this section.
  4. Section 509: Any person who utters any word or makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object with the intention that such word, sound or gesture or object be heard or seen by a woman and insult her modesty, or intrudes privacy, may be charged under this section and imprisoned for a term that may extend to 3 years and also with fine.  Instances of lewd comments or remarks made over the Internet or other explicit images and content forcibly shared over the web may be penalized under this section.

The Information Technology Act, 2000

  1. Section 66C of the IT Act: This section makes identity theft a punishable offence. This provision would cover instances of cyber hacking. Under this provision, whoever fraudulently or dishonestly make use of the electronic signature, password, or any other unique identification feature of any other person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to rupees one lakh.
  2. Section 66E of the IT Act: This section deals with the violation of the privacy of a person. Capturing, publishing, or transmitting the image of a private area of any person without her consent, under the circumstances violating her privacy, is punishable with imprisonment, which may extend to three years and/or fine.
  3. Section 67 of the IT Act: This section prohibits and punishes with imprisonment extending up to three years and a fine for the first conviction and five years and fine upon a second conviction, the publication, transmission, and causing of transmission of obscene content. Obscene content has been defined in the same manner as in Section 292 of IPC, and therefore the test of obscenity is to be the same as under that provision
  4. Section 67A of the IT Act: This section makes the publication, transmission, or causing of transmission of sexually explicit material punishable with imprisonment extending up to five years and fine for the first conviction and to seven years and fine upon a second conviction.
  5. Section 67B of the IT Act: This section makes publication/transmission of sexually explicit content depicting children punishable.
  6. Section 67C of the IT Act: This section deals with an intermediary’s obligation to preserve and retain such information as may be specified for such duration and in such manner and format as the Central Government may prescribe.

Indecent Representation Of Women (Prohibition) Bill, 2012

The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act regulates and prohibits women’s indecent representation through the media of advertisements, publications, etc. The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2012 seeks to broaden the scope of the law to cover the audio-visual media and content in electronic form, and distribution of material will also include distribution on the Internet and the portrayal of women over the web.

VI. Judicial Approach

Supreme Court of India

1. Ritu Kholi Case

Ritu Kohli Case was India’s first case of Cyber Stalking. In this case, Manish Kathuria was arrested by the New Delhi Police. He was stalking an Indian lady, Ms. Ritu Kohli, illegally chatting on the Website MIRC using her name, used obscene and obnoxious language, and distributed her residence telephone number, inviting people to chat with her on the phone. As a result, Ritu kept obscene calls from everywhere, and people promptly talked dirty with her.

2. Dr. L. Prakash v. Superintendent

In this case, the accused was an orthopedic surgeon who forced women to perform sexual acts and later upload and sell these videos as adult entertainment materials worldwide. He was charged under sections 506, 367, and 120-B of the IPC and Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and a pecuniary fine of Rupees ₹125,000 under the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act, 1956.

3. State of Tamil Nadu v. Suhas Katti

In this case, the accused Katti posted obscene, defamatory messages about a divorced woman in the yahoo message group and advertised her as a solicit sex. This case is considered one of the first cases to be imprisonment of either description for a term that may extend to ten years and a fine, which may extend to two lakh rupees.

VII. Recommendations

Some remedies are suggested for the prevention of cyber-crimes, which are as follows:

  1. The increasing number of crimes against women is a huge concern for any state. However, cyber crimes make it even more challenging as criminals have the opportunity to create fake identities and then indulge in illegal activities. To counter this Government should make stricter laws to apply to the Internet Service Providers (ISP), as they alone have the complete record of all the data being accessed by anyone surfing on the net. ISPs should be made to report any suspicious activities that any individual is indulging in, which will help curb crimes in the nascent stage. 
  2. Legislation needs to make stricter regulations for cyber cafes, keeping a record of their customers who utilized their internet services. Often people go to cyber cafes to indulge in criminal activities so as their IP addresses are not revealed in any future investigation. This is another manner to mask identity. 
  3. People need to be cautious over which parts of their daily lives are being recorded by cameras & should act modestly in such times. Awareness over cyberculture and its back draws also need to be improved amongst people. People need to be made aware of their rights, and studies show that many internet users in India have no knowledge of their rights in such matters. 

Email spoofing is possible because Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), the primary protocol used in sending email, does not allow an authentication mechanism. Although an SMTP service extension allows an SMTP client to negotiate a security level with a mail server, this precaution is not always taken. So women should take precautions and always add the SMTP service extension with the SMTP client.

VIII. Conclusion

Cybercrime has emerged as a significant challenge for law enforcement agencies in the country. These crimes will go down only when legal steps are accompanied by awareness drives to bring about a shift in society’s mentality at large. It is essential to acknowledge that the law does not have the potential to provide all solutions to cyber crimes against women in India. Women should be trained to take preventive measures, such as caution in posting them and their loved ones’ photographs and video clips online, caution in communicating with strangers online, and protecting passwords and other vital information that may compromise the woman’s security and privacy.

References

  1. Rajat Misra, Cyber Crime Against Women (November 18, 2019), https://ssrn.com/abstract=2486125.
  2. Dhruti M Kapadia, Cyber Crimes against Women and Laws In India.
  3. Debarati Halder, K. Jaishankar, Cyber Crime and the Victimization of Women: Laws, Rights, and Regulations. (1st ed. IGI Global, 2011).
  4. Nidhi Agarwal & Dr. Neeraj Kasuhik, Cyber Crimes Against Women, GJRIM Vol.4, No.1, 38 (2014).
  5. Prasanto K Roy, Why online harassment goes unpunished in India, 17 July 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india- 33532706.
  6. India Forensic, Case of Cyber Extortion, (November 18, 2019) http://www.indiaforensic.com/cyberextortion.htm 
  7. Naavi, Chennai Cyber Crime Cell gets its first case in record time, (November 18, 2019)
  8. DPS MMS Scandal, (November 18, 2019) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DPS_MMS_Scandal
  9. G. Rathinasabapathy and L. Rajendran, Cyber Crimes and Information Frauds: Emerging Challenges For LIS Professionals, Conference on Recent Advances in Science & Technology (2007).
  10. Cyber Crimes Involving Morphed PhotosRising, The Times of India, June 29, 2015.
  11. Abhimanyu Behera, Cyber Crimes and Law In India,” XXXI, IJCC 19 (2010). 13 IT Act, 2000.
  12. IT Act (Amendment) 2008 Section 67(A) (B) (C).
  13. Dr. L. Prakash v. Superintendent (Madras High Court, W.P. 7313, 2002).
  14. Tamil Nadu v.SuhasKutt, 4680 of 2004 Criminal Complaint.

What is Cyber Crime?

Any illegal activity that uses a computer as its primary means of commission. It is an offence that is committed against individuals or groups of individuals with a criminal motive to intentionally harm the reputation of the victim or cause physical or mental harm to him.

What are the types of Cyber Crimes?

Three types of Cyber crimes-

  1. Cybercrime against Person
  2. Cybercrime against Property
  3. Cybercrime against Government

What is Cyber Stalking?

Stalking means ‘pursuing stealthily.’ Cyber Stalking can be used interchangeably with online harassment and online abuse. It is the use of the Internet or other electronic means to stalk or harass a person. Cyber Stalking 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.).

Which IPC sections are inserted due to increasing cyber crimes?

Following IPC Sections are enacted in view of cyber crimes:-

  • 354A:- Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment.
  • 354C:- Voyeurism
  • 354D:- Stalking

What is the purpose behind the Indecent Representation Of Women (Prohibition) Bill, 2012?

The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act regulates and prohibits women’s indecent representation through the media of advertisements, publications, etc. The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2012 seeks to broaden the scope of the law to cover the audio-visual media and content in electronic form, and distribution of material will also include distribution on the Internet and the portrayal of women over the web.

Which are the popular cybercrime cases against Women?

Following are the famous cybercrime cases against Women in India:-

  • Ritu Kholi Case

Ritu Kohli Case was India’s first case of Cyber Stalking. In this case, Manish Kathuria was arrested by the New Delhi Police. He was stalking an Indian lady, Ms. Ritu Kohli, illegally chatting on the Website MIRC using her name, used obscene and obnoxious language, and distributed her residence telephone number, inviting people to chat with her on the phone. As a result, Ritu kept obscene calls from everywhere, and people promptly talked dirty with her.

  • Dr. L. Prakash v. Superintendent

In this case, the accused was an orthopedic surgeon who forced women to perform sexual acts and later upload and sell these videos as adult entertainment materials worldwide. He was charged under sections 506, 367, and 120-B of the IPC and Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and a pecuniary fine of Rupees ₹125,000 under the Immoral Trafficking (Prevention) Act, 1956.

  • State of Tamil Nadu v. Suhas Katti

In this case, the accused Katti posted obscene, defamatory messages about a divorced woman in the yahoo message group and advertised her as a solicit sex. This case is considered one of the first cases to be imprisonment of either description for a term that may extend to ten years and a fine, which may extend to two lakh rupees.