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THE GREY LAW OF REVENGE PORNOGRAPHY IN INDIA

~ Dipali Singh

In India, where rape videos are freely accessible and do not make the media headlines frequently, are people secure from revenge porn? Definitely not.

On 03 May 2020, a woman in Noida lodged a complaint asserting that her obscene photographs were being circulated on social media platforms. Later, it was found that her photos were shared by her former boyfriend, out of spite. This kind of crime is categorized as “Revenge Porn”.

Revenge porn is the non- consensual publication of intimate images and videos of a person to avenge on the partner who rebuffed them. The major problem with this cyber-crime is that, even if the content is removed from one site, it can be accessed on another and it becomes impossible to control the spread, hence the existence of the content perpetuates. The channels operate in a scattered manner challenging easy categorization relying on obscurity and legal loopholes to defeat attempts to shut them down.

LEGAL RECOURSES AVAILABLE

In the landmark case of March 2018, a man who shared a sexually explicit video of his former girlfriend in an attempt to blackmail her was sentenced to jail for five years and was fined nine thousand rupees[i]. The accused was convicted under the provisions of IPC and the IT Act.

In IPC, the act of revenge porn attracts conviction under the following-

· Section 292: Sale or exhibition of obscene material.

· Section 354C: Capturing and dissemination of images of a woman engaged in private acts without her consent

· Section 499: Imputation made by a person having a reason to believe the same would harm an individual’s reputation or character.

· Section 509: Acts enraging the modesty of a woman.

Concerning the IT act, revenge porn attracts prosecution under-

· Section 66E: Violation of privacy by publication of obscene material in electronic form

· Section 67: Publishing of obscene material of lascivious nature.

· Section 67A: Transmitting electronic material containing sexually explicit conduct

· Section 72: Breach of confidentiality

LACUNAE IN THE LAW

In India, no explicit law related to revenge porn exists. The complaints are filed under broader statutes of the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act. The existing sections of the IPC do not directly relate to revenge porn, but to the non-consensual sharing of consensually-captured images which suffers from various drawbacks.

For instance, sections 354C[ii] and 509 of the IPC which talks about “voyeurism” and “outraging the modesty of women” is gender-specific, and limits its scope to a female victim. However, Men are equally susceptible to this crime.

Moreover, it does not speak about the publication of morphed pictures for gratifying revenge. In the majority of cases, the offensive photographs may be morphed; section 66E of the IT Act lacks this criterion. The provisions in the IT Act provide punishment for sharing the images of only “private areas” of an individual which can be criticized for its limited scope arguing that, videos could be captured in compromising positions without revealing the private areas of the body.

Now, if we talk about Section 67A of the IT Act, it criminalizes individuals who transmit any material containing sexually explicit act in electronic form. It can be inferred prima facie that, while the section can be used to prosecute offenders, it also can implicate the victim and may lead to the possible prosecution of who may have created the content voluntarily. Further, there exists no rule that makes it mandatory to assign a female officer to such cases. This is necessary since many women could not bear to show the sexually explicit content in question to a room full of male police officers.

CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTIONS

It is a fact that “revenge porn” causes great emotional and social harm to the victims and leads to pecuniary consequences. The need for the moment is to differentiate revenge porn from non consensual pornography which is a wider term and introduce new gender-neutral laws on revenge porn to prevent unsolicited sharing of explicit content. A safe environment has to be created to encourage people so that these cases do not go unreported due to social stigma. Punishments should be aggravated and damages should be increased according to the gravity of the crime. People should be made aware of their legal rights to raise an alarm and lodge complaints of any such activity that threatens the modesty of a person.

Source: The Times of India

Picture: ljmu.ac.uk

[i] State of West Bengal v AnimeshBoxi, C.R.M. No. 11806 of 2017, GR/1587/2017 [ii] Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013

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