This article is written by Divija Pidugu, BBA LLB (Hons.), from Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhapatnam and curated by Dheepika R, BA LLB (Hons.), from ICFAI Law School, Hyderabad.

We live in the age of technology. Technology became a part and parcel of everyone’s lives. With the increase in the globalisation people are getting more connected. Just like there are two sides of a coin, though there are benefits there are also disadvantages. One of the disadvantages is targeting women on social media. From fighting efficiently in order to secure the border to cooking tasty meals women are making their presence in every walk of life.

However, the issues of women’s safety and well-being are still at threat. Since centuries, women have been typecast as being physically inferior. Not only in India but around the world women continue to remain the most vulnerable section of society. The latest menace for women is in cyberspace. Women in India are getting tricked into a cybercrime every single day. A survey has reportedly found that one out of every three women, continued to receive inappropriate calls and messages. The numbers are staggering. It is time that we find a way to forestall online harassment of women. Simultaneously, women should likewise be progressively made aware of cyber harassment laws applicable to their case.

What are the laws in India to protect women from online abuse?

Section 66E of the Information Technology Act, 2000:

This section prescribes punishment for publishing any visual content about an individual in an electronic or print form which is violating an individual’s privacy. The punishment includes imprisonment up to three years or a fine ranging from ₹2 lakh to ₹10 lakh.

Section 67 of the Information Technology Act, 2000:

It prescribes punishment for transmitting obscene material that is lascivious in nature.  

Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860:

This provision covers any paper, drawing, book, figure or painting distributed through an electronic medium that contains ‘obscene’ content. Punishment under this section may extend up to 2 years in first conviction with a fine which may extend to two thousand rupees.

What is noteworthy here is that Sections 292 of IPC and 67 of IT Act, perfectly mirror each other yet punishments under the IT Act are much stronger.

Section 354A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860:

The accused can face imprisonment up to three years and a heavy fine under this provision. It includes publishing sexual content against the will of a woman, demanding sexual favors, making sexually coloured remarks and showing pornoghraphy against the will of the women.

 Section 499 of Indian Penal Code, 1860:

This provision prescribes punishment for offensive content or images or videos which are obscene and being published on the online social media platforms. The accused can face imprisonment up to two years with or without a fine when charged under this provision.

Section 507 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860:

The provisions under this section prescribe punishment for the acts of threatening or intimidating a woman anonymously. The accused may face punishment up to two years of imprisonment if proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Section 509 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860:

This particular section prescribes punishment for acts, words, gestures which insults the modesty of any woman by. The perpetrators may face punishment up to three years or fine or both. 

When to file a complaint?

One can report an online harassment episode whether or not one has suffered on a minor level. There is nothing which describes base restriction of maltreatment for filing a complaint. Regardless of any doubt, report such abuse at the first instance itself, first on the online social media stage where the abuse has happened. Each online social media has meticulously characterized such approaches to report online harassment. They are obliged under the IT Rules 2011, to take action against such abusers in 36 hours of reporting of such online harassment abuse to prevent any further abuses. However, if the response of that online social platform media neglects to give an agreeable outcome, absolutely never delay to file a complaint with the nearby cyber cells.

What information does one need to file a complaint?

It is essential to maintain such records of online harassment or abuse if one plans to lodge a complaint with the cybercell or police. Since one should submit proof of such online harassment as soon as one reports it at a nearby cybercrime cell or police station. Police or cybercrime cells may refuse to lodge a complaint without proof or evidence. So, it would be better if one gathers as much information and evidence as one can.

Taking screenshots that clearly demonstrate the supposed alleged profile and substance. Additionally, take a screenshot of the URL related with the supposedly alleged substance (if material). One may need to produce evidence in the form of a soft copy form (CD-R) to the cybercrime cell or police wherever one files a complaint.

How to file an Online Harassment Complaint?

Indian government has recently launched a cybercrime reporting” under the National Mission for the security and safety of girls. It is a progressive initiative by the Government for the fast track reporting and redressal of online harassment incidents. Moreover, an online platform encourages women to report such crimes from their homes only because they may think they may face embarrassment to report such crimes. We also have an option of registering such complaints anonymously.

Apart from registering complaints online, one also has the option to approach the city’s cybercrime cell or police station with a written complaint specifying the details of the incident, victim and abuser (if available). There is no particular jurisdiction for reporting of cybercrimes. One can always report it to any cybercrime cell or police station regardless of the jurisdiction where the offense is committed. On the other hand, if there is no cybercrime cell present in one’s vicinity, one can lodge a complaint in a nearby police station.

The National Commission for Women

The victims of online harassment also have an option of writing a complaint specifying all details like a brief detail of the incident, details of the victim and the abuser (if available) to the National Commission for Women. This Organization functions to help victims of online harassment deal with the police. The Commission possesses the power to line up an Inquiry Committee, which is empowered to conduct spot inquiries in order to collect evidence, interrogate witnesses and summon the accused to expedite the investigation.

What if the police refuse to lodge a complaint?

Local Police or the cybercrime cells are under an obligation to register the complaint or an F.I.R. They cannot refuse to accept it. However, if they do refuse. one can directly file a representation before the nearest Judicial Magistrate stating that the police officials have refused to accept the complaint. 

We pray that no women in India should ever be exploited for online harassment. But on the off chance if any such unfortunate incident happens never ever hesitate to lodge a complaint on the very first instance of such incident.



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