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A never-ending fight for Justice | #cybercrime | #computerhacker

# Anand P
Representational Image | Mathrubhumi

For the past two years, writer Chithira Kusuman has made it a habit to check whether her personal photographs stolen by cybercriminals from her Facebook handle and uploaded to adult content websites have been removed or not.

‘Last time I checked, it was still there, and I have no hope of seeing it removed soon,’ she told

Chithira is a victim of cybercrime, like thousands of others who are facing some form of victimisation at the hands of criminals who have turned the Internet into a breeding ground for all forms of illegal activities.

Chithira Kusuman

Chithira’s plight is one of the numerous cases wherein personal photos and videos were stolen and misused by cyber fraudsters. In many circumstances, the individual who faces such a cyber crime remains silent about the incident because of public humiliation.

‘After discovering that images I had published on my Facebook profile had been uploaded by someone on an adult content website, I filed a police report. Thousands of other images of young girls and women, in addition to mine, were similarly uploaded on this website. I went to the Cyber Police station in Kochi and informed the officer at the front desk about the incident. To my chagrin, the cop paid scant attention to my complaint, remarking that it was not surprising that the images were stolen because I had a public account. The officer was virtually chastising me for having a social media account. Later, a senior cop at the station advised me to send the URL of the photos that were stolen and uploaded to the website. Though I did exactly as the cop said and shared the URLs via email, I didn’t receive an acknowledgement or further communication. This was the reason that forced me to unveil the whole ordeal in a Facebook post,’ she said.

Despite Cyber Police’s assurances and support, Chithira’s images still remain in the hands of fraudsters. Consider the mental anguish a person would experience when law enforcement agencies fail to safeguard his or her fundamental rights. We are at a point in history where our lives, stripped of privacy, are being misused in public forums in various ways as the digital age is evolving in its myriad forms.

Jiyas Jamal

“One of the instances we came across included the plight of a girl who had been in a relationship with a boy for three years. During this period, the boy took a screenshot of the girl while engaging her in a private video call. They eventually broke up and parted ways. Recently, a friend of the girl noticed her nude photo posted on a popular messaging app and informed her. When we investigated, we discovered that countless explicit and morphed photographs and videos of girls and women were shared daily on these channels. To make matters worse, the victims’ social media IDs and contact information were posted with these photographs, resulting in the victim receiving calls from strange numbers,” says Cyber Law Expert Advocate Jiyas Jamal, founder of Cyber Suraksha Foundation.

The death of Athira V.M., a 26-year-old lady from the Kottayam district, is an example of how cyber harassment on the internet could take a physical and mental toll on a person’s life and could even potentially force them to take an extreme step.

Arun Vidhyadharan, Athira V.M.

Apparently, she was stalked by Arun Vidhyadharan, a man with whom she had a relationship in the past. However, Arun became violent and abusive after they broke up. Before she killed herself, she had gone to the police and briefed them about her ordeal.

‘He has been threatening me with slander and has been sharing my photos without my consent on social media platforms. These acts have caused significant anguish and damage to my personal and professional life,’ she wrote in her complaint. Despite her protests, Arun continued the harassment through social media, forcing her end her life.


Leading Malayalam actress Praveena has also been a victim of cybercrime for the past five years. Bhagyaraj, a Delhi native, has been spreading morphed images of the actress and her daughter on social media platforms. Praveena filed a complaint against Bhagyaraj, a computer engineer, five years ago when he spread morphed images of the actress and her 20-year-old daughter. Though Arun was arrested and imprisoned for two months, he continued his illegal acts against her family after his release on bail. He also started to target her other family members as well. The incident is another example of the loopholes in the law enforcement mechanism in the state in dealing with cyber crimes.

J Devika

Academian and author J Devika has an interesting take on these cyber crimes: “During the course of our inquiry for a study in 2019, we noticed several marriage-related cases in the Malabar region. Interestingly, all these weddings were around the same time period, and there were no connections between the families involved. However, after the wedding, the girls were subjected to verbal abuse and slut shaming from their husbands’ relatives and families. A police officer in Malappuram was the first to notice a link between these cases. The cop identified the similarity in arguments raised by the families in all five marriage cases. They all said the girls had acted in porn videos. Further investigation revealed that a single studio handled the wedding photographs for all five girls. The photographs got leaked from the same studio and were used to tarnish the images of these girls. Imagine how vulnerable our women are in Kerala?’ she said.

Age of Cyber Crimes

Brittanica defines cyber crimes “as the use of a computer as an instrument to further illegal ends, such as committing fraud, trafficking in child pornography and intellectual property, stealing identities, or violating privacy.”

It is not difficult to make the case that many people have lost their moral compass about issues like ethics, righteousness, and privacy. As we review the country’s existing laws, it becomes clear that cyber crimes necessitate an executive and judicial system that takes swift action to deliver justice. However, this is not the case when it comes to the country’s disposition to cybercrime. Many cyber professionals, legal experts, and social activists have suggested that the system needs to be reformed to safeguard people’s rights as well as security in the day and age of the internet.

The yearly report released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)shows an alarming growth in the number of cyber crimes recorded in the country. In 2021, 52,974 cases were registered under Cyber Crimes in India, showing an increase of 5.9 per cent in registration over 2020 (50,035 cases). During 2021, 60.8% of cyber-crime cases registered were for the motive of fraud (32,230 out of 52,974 cases) followed by sexual exploitation with 8.6% (4,555 cases) and Extortion with 5.4% (2,883 cases).

In the case of Kerala, 1359 cyber crime cases were recorded between 2019 and 21, with just 57.4 per cent having a charge sheet filed.

Cybercrime and legal experts point out that tens of thousands of cybercrimes go unreported mainly because the victims fear harassment and humiliation by the public.

Issues that hamper justice in Cyber Crime Cases

In July, while pronouncing the verdict in a petition moved by a Thodupuzha native concerning the removal of defamatory content against her on social media, the Kerala High Court held that:

‘Privacy is the ultimate expression of the sanctity of the individual. There cannot be dignity for an individual without privacy. It is a constitutional value founded on fundamental rights. Privacy with its attended values assures dignity to the individual. Dignity is the core which unites fundamental rights. Privacy is the constitutional core of human dignity.’

The case related to the police’s failure to take down the unauthorised use of her name, photos, and details that were illegally uploaded on digital platforms, exposing her to humiliation and cyber-attacks. The petitioner, an Ayurvedic Practitioner and a beautician pointed out that Thodupuzha Police, who had registered the case under Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, failed to take appropriate steps to remove her personal details, including photos and videos, from cyberspace.

The court ruled in favour of the petitioner and directed the police officers to ensure that images, the identity of the petitioner and defamatory articles and videos were removed. The ruling from the High Court itself is a reminder of the complex formalities that are required to remove such images and other materials from social media platforms. It has now become a common practice for online users to pry into the social media accounts of strangers, steal private photos and videos and use them for unlawful purposes. Sadly, in many cases, these photographs, morphed images and private videos get uploaded to porn sites. In many cases, the victim will be unaware of this development until someone notifies them, often leading to the person falling into mental trauma.

To deal with internet-related concerns, however, a person needs to invest a significant amount of time. It gets worse when the victim pursues legal action or seeks assistance to remove some personal content online.

Cyber expert Adv Jiyas Jamal says that in many cases of cyber crimes, it is nearly impossible to remove illegally uploaded photos and videos from cyberspace, especially in social media platforms. It is alleged that a popular messaging app has become a go-to platform for many cyber fraudsters to engage in unlawful operations such as child pornography, pirated content distribution, and financial fraud. And it is pointed out that because of the way the platform operates, law enforcement officials are often unable to track down criminals.

“Several such incidents have been reported around the country. Sadly, nothing is done to stop the illicit actions of this nature that are taking place in the messaging app, and the nodal officers of these popular messaging apps do not act quickly enough when such cases are reported. We should keep in mind that the Union Government has the authority to take action against such applications if they do not adhere to the country’s rules and guidelines. However, it is still unclear why these companyies are not being prosecuted despite harbouring those who share adult materials, child pornographies, and unlawful activities,” Jiyas added.

An officer attached to the cybercrime cell admits that it is not easy to remove obscene content posted on social media sites. “Based on the complaint, we notify the relevant social media sites and insist that the obscene content be removed. However, it is up to them to decide whether to flag the content and remove it or dismiss the complaint as defamation. In many situations, the perpetrator will submit obscene content through a fake account created using the phone number and the identity of a stranger. As a result, it is highly difficult to track down these perpetrators. In some circumstances, both parties in such incidents negotiate an agreement and settle the cases outside the court.”

The refusal of the victims and their families to submit a complaint in these cyber crimes presents a more significant issue for cyber professionals and law enforcement officials to bring offenders before the law. Furthermore, it is widely acknowledged that victims are typically discouraged from coming forward in such situations due to a lack of assistance from law enforcement and a lack of an appropriate setting and infrastructure.

Author J Devika disclosed that often women or girls, victims of online sexual harassment and abuse, are discouraged from following the legal course in such incidents. She says that police officers generally show a lack of empathy in incidents like this, either due to their ignorance or the lack of the technical expertise to handle such cyber crimes.

Senior Advocate MR Abhilash

Senior Advocate MR Abhilash remarked that conviction rates in cyber crimes would remain low unless there is a thorough investigation and prosecution. “Though IT Act, 2000, exists, cybercrime is a matter that is always evolving. Indian Penal Code (IPC) also clearly defines various cyber crimes and introduced necessary changes through amendments over the years. The penal acts are also crystalised in a process that takes several years. However, the problem is the lack of the proper infrastructure to deal with cyber crimes. We need to understand that standard criminal cases now involve some form of digital devices or the internet. Even when we try to collect evidence or gather call details or phone recordings, the necessity for technical expertise is a matter of utmost importance. We need proper infrastructure, including cyber forensics, to deal with such issues. Sadly, its presence is inadequate in Kerala,” added MR Abhilash.

The inadequate number of cyber police stations and technical incompetence in the area has proven to be a hurdle for victims in receiving justice in cyber cases. In many cases, the officials in law enforcement don’t have the expertise to gather incriminating digital evidence.

When we look at the data that the Union Government has made available, we can see that the total number of cybercrimes over the previous few years has increased alarmingly. 27,374 people were arrested for cybercrime in 2021, while chargesheets were filed in 25,512 cases. However, only 3 per cent of those arrested, totalling 736 people, were convicted in these cases. Since January 1, 2020, 1.6 million cyber-related incidents have been reported in the country, with 32,000 cases receiving a First Information Report (FIR) and only 126 cases reaching the conviction stage.

At the same time, legal experts have signalled the need to make necessary changes to the existing acts to incorporate the ever-evolving sense of cyber crimes in the country.

Cybercrime laws in India

Information Technology Act, 2000 (IT Act)

On May 9, 2000, President K. R. Narayanan gave his approval to the Act, which serves as the guiding force in all technological disputes and cybercrimes. It establishes a legal foundation for electronic governance by validating digital signatures and electronic records. It also defines cybercrime and specifies punishments for it.

The key objective of the act is: ‘An Act to provide legal recognition for transactions carried out using electronic data interchange and other means of electronic communication, commonly referred to as ‘electronic commerce’, which involve the use of alternatives to paper-based methods of communication and storage of information, to facilitate electronic filing of documents with the Government agencies and further to amend the Indian Penal Code, the Indian Evidence Act, 1872, the Bankers’ Books Evidence Act, 1891 and the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934 and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.’

However, as cyber-attacks become more serious and more complex, various changes are being made to the rules. In 2008, Section 66A was enacted, which made transmitting ‘offensive messages’ illegal, and included Section 69, which empowered the authorities to intercept, monitor, or decrypt any information through any computer resource. It also included provisions for pornography, child porn, cyber terrorism, and voyeurism.

Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1980

In addition to IT Act, law enforcement officials can take action in cyber offences and are prosecuted under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), 1860.

IPC Sections to combat cyber crimes:

  • The law of obscenity (Section 292)
  • Voyeurism (Section 354C)
  • Stalking (Section 354D)
  • Forgery (Section 464)
  • False documentation (Section 465)
  • Forgery for the purpose of cheating (Section 468)
  • Forgery for the purpose of harming reputation (Section 469)
  • Using as genuine a forged document (Section 471)

In addition to the laws listed above, there are many additional parts of the IT Act and the Indian Penal Code that deal with cyber offences.


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