Updated: Jun 22, 2020
Author: Aalok Gaur
Student, III semester, B.A.,LL.B., FIMT School of Law (GGSIPU)
“Words scar, rumors destroy and bullies kill”
Technology means that bullying is no longer limited to schoolyards or street corners. Yes, cyber-bullying can occur anywhere, even at own home, via mobile phones, SMS, emails or online in social media where people can view, participate in, or share content. Cyber bullying is the harassment or bullying executed through digital devices. It includes sending, posting and sharing negative, harmful, false and mean content about someone else. Sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment and humiliation to that person and character assassination of that person constitutes cyber bullying. It mostly occurs at social media, such as facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok; text messaging, direct messaging and online chatting over the internet; chat rooms and emails. Cyber bullies can torment you 24 hours a day, even seven days a week. And with a few clicks the humiliation can be witnessed by hundreds or even
thousands of people online. Generally, the cyber bullies post harmful, nasty or humiliating rumors or comments about an individual online; publish an embarrassing or nasty photo or video; creates fake or nasty webpage about another person and you are made to feel hurt, angry, afraid, helpless, hopeless, isolated, and ashamed. You are even made suicidal. They issue online threats provoking an individual to kill themselves or hurt someone else. They usually trigger religious, racial, ethnic vitriol online by posting hate comments or content. Your physical health is likely to suffer and you are at a greater risk of developing mental health problems such as depression, low self-esteem and anxiety. It is mostly seen that boys tend to bully by “sexting” (sending messages of a sexual nature) or with messages that threaten physical harm. Girls, on the other hand, more commonly cyber bully by spreading lies and rumours, exposing secrets or by excluding you from the social media groups
Gradually, the availability of affordable data services and social media presence has increased and along that cyber bullying in India has seen an alarming rise.
According to research conducted by Symantec in 2017, nearly 8 out of 10 individuals are subjected to the different types of cyber bullying in India. Out of this total, around 63% faced online abuses and insults, and 59% were subjected to false rumours and gossips for degrading their image. The same study reveals that India ranks as the country with the highest number of cyber bullying cases faced in the Asia – Pacific region, more than Australia and Japan. Data from the survey shows that people under the age group of 40 are experiencing the highest levels of abuse. Worryingly, 87% of people with mental health issues and 77% with body image or weight issues had experienced some kind of abuse or harassment. The real world impact of digital abuse was also looked at in the study and found that 28% had experienced difficulties at works and studies, 27% experienced an impact on relationship with friends, 26% experienced depression or emotional stress and 24% reported losing friends as a result of being targeted. According to Ritesh Chopra, country manager, Symantec, “Indeed many of the victims of Cyber bullying said that they had no idea of the true identity of the person bullying them.”
By region, the highest threats of physical violence were reported by victims from Mumbai (51%), Delhi (47%) and Hyderabad (46%) with Delhi victims (51%) experiencing the highest incidence of cyber-bullying.
Some horrifying incidents of Cyber bullying in India includes:
In November 2017, an MBBS student in Kerala jumped to death from the highest floor of her college building. An examination of her Facebook profile showed her displeasure over the nasty comments made by one of her peers. Police suspect that cyber bullying provoked her to take this extreme step.
In another instance, in February 2017, the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) attacked students at a literary event in Delhi’s Ramjas College. At that time, little did a 20 year old student from Lady Shriram College, imagined that her online campaign against the violence would change her life forever. The student, Gurmehar Kaur, has ever since been trolled and abused extensively on social media platforms. Worse still, she has even been receiving death and rape threats.
Cyberbullying was the first time dealt as an issue by the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Vishakha vs. the state of Rajasthan1. In this while dealing with the issue of bullying guidelines to protect women from sexual harassment was laid down by the Supreme Court.
In another case, United States v. Lori Drew2, Lori Drew was charged with the death of Megan Meier as a result of her participation in cyberbullying efforts considered to be responsible for Meier’s death. Megan Meier was a 13 year old girl who took her own life shortly before her 14th birthday as a result of what was deemed bullying taking place over the Internet, or ‘Cyber bullying’. Megan Meier is considered to be amongst the first cases of suicide resulting from cyber bullying in USA, in which, Lori Drew, who was a parent of a fellow student, those who undertook Cyber bullying, was charged with masterminding the bullying of Megan Meier.
In fact, in a PIL filed based on a letter from an NGO named Prajwala dated 18.02.2015, the Hon’ble Supreme Court suo moto, in order to curb circulation of child pornography, rape videos on the internet through social media websites, directed the central government to create an online portal where anonymous complaints can be filed. When the matter came up for hearing in 2018, the Supreme Court sought from the parties before it, i.e., Yahoo, Facebook, Google Inc, Microsoft and WhatsApp, to give a report on measures taken to stop uploading and sharing of such videos and since they had not furnished detailing of same, were fined Rupees One Lakh each.
Anti-Cyber bullying Laws in India:
Cyber bullying in India is only getting worse with every passing day. However, it is shocking that there are no special Anti-Cyber Bullying Laws in India yet. Although there are some cyber laws that cover some of the acts classified as cyber bullying in India.
Section 66A IT Act – This section defines the punishment for sending “offensive” messages through a computer or any other communication device like a mobile phone or a tablet. A conviction can fetch a maximum of three years in jail and a fine.
Section 66C IT Act – This section prescribes punishment for identity theft and provides that anyone who fraudulently or dishonestly makes use of the electronic signature, password or any unique identification feature of any other person shall be punished with imprisonment of either description of a term of 3 years and shall also be liable to fine which may extend to rupees one lac
Section 66E IT Act – This section prescribes punishment for violation of privacy and provides that any person who intentionally captures, publishes or transmits the image of any private area of a person without his consent, shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to 3 years or with fine not extending rupees two lac
Section 67B IT Act – This section prescribes the punishment for publishing or transmitting of obscene materials depicting children in any sexually explicit act in electronic form, which shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to 5 years to be accompanied with fine which may extend to rupees ten lac
Section 72 IT Act – Breach of confidentiality and privacy. This section imposes a penalty on any person who, having secured access to any electronic record, information using powers conferred by Act or rules, discloses such information without consent of person concerned, shall be punishable with imprisonment of a term which may extend to 2 years or with fine which may extend to one lac rupees
Section 503 of Indian Penal Code – Sending threatening messages through email. Whoever threatens another with any injury to his person, reputation or property with intent to cause that person to do any act which he is not legally bound to do, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description of a term which may extend to 2 years or with fine, or both
Section 509 IPC – Whoever uses word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman, or such word or sound shall be heard by such woman, or intrudes upon privacy of such woman, shall be punished with a term of imprisonment extending to 3 years, and also with fine
Section 499 IPC – Whoever, by sending defamatory massages through email, concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing that such imputation will harm the reputation of such person, is said, to defame that person
Section 500 IPC – Whoever defames or email abuses shall be punished with simple imprisonment of a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or both.
It can be concluded that cyber bullying is a serious issue, and like any form of bullying it can have long – term effects on its victims. It is a problem in societies that are advanced enough to have technology to connect with other people online and is not easily fixable. It can affect anyone but is most prominent in today’s youth. As technology continues to become an increasingly large part of our daily lives, and the lives of our children, it is important to recognize the dangers of cyber bullying and to take definite steps to prevent it. Eliminating cyber bullying will take a combined effort and won’t be eliminated over night. If the government is willing to accept that cyber bullying is a problem, laws can be put in place to help discourage this activity. And the laws made should be implemented strictly so that lives can be saved of all those needy people who all are losing hopes of their life.
1 AIR 1997 SC 3011
2 259 FRD 449
Image Courtesy: Respective Owners
DISCLAIMER: Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of A & S Jurisprudentia Ltd. A & S Jurisprudentia Ltd also does not certify correctness of the Language, Spelling, Grammar, context etc. of the Blog and disclaims any Liability, consequences which may arise of this Blog.