We Don’t Have Any Law To Deal With Online Intimidation in India

Common citizens of India do not have adequate legal mechanisms and redress options for dealing with such threats.

3 min read
Representational image. (Photo: iStock)

The last decade in India has seen a massive transformation. Not only have we seen the enormous advance of technology for electronic governance and for promoting the cause of digital commerce, we have also seen the prevalence of online intimidation. Majority of Indians still believe that that Internet is a paradigm which grants them anonymity and the same can thus be used for hitting anybody below the belt. The kind of trolling that is happening in India on social media platforms, especially Twitter, is only too real.

Numerous prominent personalities have found themselves to be the recipient of online intimidation. The latest tweet by a sitting Parliamentarian suggesting the tying of a prominent author to an Army Jeep in Kashmir can also be seen as a manifestation of online intimidation.

Also Read: Fake News Trail: Why Did Paresh Rawal Troll Arundhati Roy?

With trolling, cyber bullying and cyber harassment constantly increasing in the Indian ecosystem, one has to quickly realise that common citizens of India do not have adequate legal mechanisms and redress options open to them for dealing with such threats. The Indian Information Technology Act, 2000 is the only legislation that India has for dealing with anything digital.

(Photo: iStock)
(Photo: iStock)

Online Intimidation: No Remedies Available

When one looks at the provisions of the Indian Cyberlaw, one quickly realises that the issue of online intimidation has not been addressed at all. Section 66A was introduced under the Information Technology Act, 2000 in 2008. Section 66A was drafted in a broad manner so as to include some elements of online intimidation.

This was so done because any act of online intimidation would include sending information which is grossly offensive or menacing in character using a computer or mobile or any other communication device.

However, after the Supreme Court of India struck down Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 in the year 2015, whatever limited remedies that a citizen of India had under the Indian cyberlaw to deal with the issue of online intimidation, have been taken away.

When one looks at other provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000, it is very clear that there are no direct provisions which could be invoked in the cases pertaining to online intimidation. As such, one has no option but to go back to the provisions of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, which do not provide effective redress in specific cases of online intimidation.

It is clear that the registering of cases pertaining to online intimidation is not a top priority for the law enforcement agencies. With the result that though the Police may register a case pertaining to online intimidation, it may face difficulties in investigating the same.

As on date, no convictions for online intimidation have been successfully achieved in our country.

Intermediaries Must Be Made Responsible

I personally believe that the government also needs to invoke the liability of intermediaries in the direction of regulating online intimidation. Online intermediaries and service providers cannot act as mute spectators while online intimidation goes completely unchecked on their platforms.

The government needs to come up with specific guidelines to regulate the activities and actions to be taken by service providers and intermediaries in the context of reported online intimidation. Strong deterrent legal provisions need to be put under the Indian Cyberlaw to deal with online intimidation.

Further, there should be a national helpline against online intimidation that needs to be set up which can then be a single reporting point for reporting online intimidation cases in India. Together the government along with all stakeholders, has to make constant efforts to make cyberspace more secure and safe.

The onus is on the government to act in this regard. It will be interesting to see how further developments in this space take place as time moves forward.

(The author is a Supreme Court advocate and is Asia’s leading expert and authority on Cyberlaw, Cyber Security Law & Mobile Law. Pavan Duggal has been acknowledged as one of the top four cyber-lawyers in the world. He can be contacted at his email addresses pavan@pavanduggal.com and pavanduggal@yahoo.com)

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