Before we discuss the Cyber Bullying and its concomitant Anti-Bullying laws in details, it is important to know what Cyber Bullying is and how does it happen. One or more individuals or groups engage in cyber-bullying in order to harass or bully another person on a regular basis. Most often, folks who are bullied online are unable to defend themselves.
This includes releasing someone’s personal information or photos online, sending indecent or sexual messages, stalking someone, hacking someone’s account and many other types of cyber-bullying. Cyber-bullying can take place via a variety of channels, including social media (Instagram, Facebook, etc.), text messages, email, and other types of instant messaging (WhatsApp, messenger, etc.).
What is Cyber Bullying?
“Cyberbullying” is the bullying that occurs via digital devices such as smartphones, computers, and tablets via instant messaging (IM), SMS, social networking platforms, and other online groups where people can trade and share messages. Bullying is defined as the act of spreading malicious, hurtful, or inaccurate information about another person. An offence of cyber-bullying is punishable by law.
The most widely accepted definition of cyber-bullying is “an hostile, intentional act or behaviour that is carried over by a group or a person, using electronic forms of interaction, frequently and over time against a victim who could not indeed easily defend himself or herself. ” The term “bullying” has been defined in a variety of ways, but cybercrime experts generally agree on this definition. Bullying can occur both online and offline, including when brat students harass and abuse other students in school. This type of bullying is known as cyberbullying when it occurs online with the use of technology. As a kind of cyberbullying in India, cyberbullying is the dissemination of private or intimate information about another individual.
Cyberbullying in India
Even though India does not have any special legislation to combat cyberbullying, there are provisions such as Article 67 of the IT Act that partially address such concerns. Bullying at the collegiate level is not subject to specific legislation in India.
Bullying is very common in higher education in India, particularly residential schools. Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to cybercrime perpetrated by unknown individuals. An unidentified individual uses the internet to spread defamatory and obscene words about a certain individual.
India is ranked third in the world for cyber-bullying offences, and this isn’t surprising because the number of users is increasing every day and most of them are false accounts.
An NGO called CRY (Children Rights and You) performed a poll that indicated that 9.2% of Delhi NCR youngsters are being bullied online, and half of those children don’t tell their parents, teachers, or guardians about the bullying.
According to a nationwide poll done by Symantec, 8 out of 10 people are victims of various forms of cyber-bullying.
Nearly two-thirds (63%) and 59%) of these people were victims of online abuses or harassment, respectively, according to the study. It is unclear why children do not tell their parents, teaching staff, or guardians about just the cyber-bullying they are subjected to.
The answer could be that they are ashamed to tell, or that they fear that telling them will make them (the children) the targets of even more bullying. There could be a variety of reasons for this because no one understands what is going on in their minds.
Anti-Bullying Laws in India
While cyber-stalking is defined as when someone keeps an eye (stalks) on someone and their day-to-day tasks on the online platform or social media without their experience and understanding with the intent to harass or hurt them, cyber-bullying is defined as when an individual is continuously harassing or making threats you through messages or even other means on social media or the internet whereas
The Information Technology Act, 2000
The Information Technology Act of 2000 (IT Act) is a piece of legislation that regulates the use of information technology. The Government of India approved the Information Technology Act of 2000 (Amendment 2008) to deal with crimes committed through the internet. Cyber-bullying is but one crime that takes place on the internet and has a long-term effect on the victim, but unfortunately, the crime of cyber-bullying has not yet been included in this Act as an offence. However, there are several remedies for victims of cyber-bullying included in this Act, including the following:
Section 66(D) of the Act: A person who defrauds someone by presenting their picture as that of everyone else on the internet or social media will be prosecuted under this Section, according to the law. The punishment may include imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine of up to Rs. one lakh.
Section 66(E): Under this Section, it is possible to be prosecuted for purposefully photographing someone’s private belongings and posting them on the internet or social media without their permission or knowledge. The punishment may include imprisonment for up to three years and/or a fine of up to Rs. three lakhs.
Section 67: Under this Section, anybody who transfers, circulates, or uploads obscene or inappropriate content to the internet or social media would be subject to criminal prosecution. The punishment may include imprisonment for up to 5 years and/or a fine of up to Rs. 10 lakhs.
According to the Supreme Court’s decision in the case of Shreya Singhal v. Union of India, which dealt with punishment for sending abusive messages through a computer network or communication device, section 66 A of the IT Act, 2000 was declared unconstitutional because it did not fall within the ambit of reasonable restrictions under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Indian Constitution.
The aforementioned clause was imprecise and confusing, and sections 66 B and 67 C of the Information Technology Act, as well as several articles of the Indian Penal Code, were sufficient to deal with similar offences.
Indian Penal Code, 1860
The Indian Penal Law (IPC) was first published in 1860 and is the country’s official criminal code. The statute makes no mention of cyber-bullying as a distinct kind of harassment. However, there are several provisions that may deal with the crimes of cyberbullying, such as the following:
Section 507: If any individual frightens or threatens another person anonymously over the internet or social media, or compels them to do anything against their will, he or she will be subject to the penalties set out in this section. The sentence may be up to two years in jail.
Section 509: If someone attempts to insult the modesty of another woman, they may be prosecuted under Section 509, which can include doing so over the internet or social media. The punishment can include imprisonment for up to one year, with or without a fine.
Section 354(C): In accordance with Section 354(C), a person may be prosecuted if he takes a woman’s photograph without her agreement or authorization when she is in her private area. The sentence may range from 1-3 years in jail, but if the accused continues to violate the law, he will be sentenced to 3-7 years in prison.
Section 354(D): A person may be penalised under Section 354(D) if they follow another person or monitor their daily activities on the online without the knowledge with an aim to do them harm or to injure them, and they do so with the purpose to affect them personally or to hurt them. The sentence may be up to three years in jail.
Section 499: A person who defames another person may be penalised under Section 499 of the Penal Code. Defamation might take place on the internet or via social media.
IPC v. IT Act in Cyber Bullying
In the decision of Sharat Babu Digumarti v. Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, there was a disagreement between the provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Information Technology Act. When an obscene movie was advertised for sale on a website and the same was purposefully buried under the category of e-books, some copies were sold even before listing was removed, which resulted in the listing being discontinued.
The Supreme Court in this case determined that if a crime involved the creation or destruction of an electronic record, only the IT Act would apply since that was the legislative purpose. Moreover, in the event of a disagreement between the IT Act and the IPC, the special law would take precedence over the general law, and the latter law would take precedence over the former law.
Furthermore, Section 81 of the IT Act says that perhaps the provisions of the IT Act will be applicable despite any provision of any other legislation now in force that is inconsistent with those provisions.
Aside from protecting children under the age of 18, the provisions of the POCSO Act also protect children under the age of 18 from sexual harassment, pornography, or sexual assault, which would include any sort of cyber-bullying that is prohibited under the act.
Accordingly, the Ministry of Human Resources has instructed schools and institutions to organise Anti-Ragging groups. In this respect, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has released the ‘UGC Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions 2009’, which is intended to provide a check and balance on cyber-bullying in schools and universities in India.
The National Council for Educational Research and Training (NCERT) has also established different standards specifying the duties of teachers, parents, and students in these situations, and they are all obligated to report bullies promptly.
Animesh Boxi v. State of West Bengal: In this matter, Animesh Boxi was found guilty of publishing his ex-images girlfriend’s and videos on the internet without her permission (pornography websites). Animesh was convicted under many provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (Sections 66C, 66E, and 67/67A), as well as the Indian Penal Code (Sections 354A, 354C, 354D, and 509), and was sentenced to five years in jail and a Rs. 9,000 fine. This case had a significant historical significance since it was the first judgement in an Indian revenge porn case.
Prakhar Sharma v. The State of Madhya Pradesh: In this issue, the accused established a fictitious Facebook account in the victim’s name and used to post nasty remarks from that account, along with images of the victim. The victim filed a civil suit against the accused (which he downloaded from her original ID). The accused was judged to be guilty and sentenced in accordance with provisions 66C and 67/67A of the Information Technology Act, 2000, respectively.
Anti-bullying legislation exists in India for both schools and colleges
There is no specific regulation in India to address collegiate bullying, but the need to put an end to bullying cannot be overstated. The prevalence of bullying in Indian institutions, especially boarding schools, is alarming. Students who participate in anti-bullying efforts are punished by anti-ragging committees in schools.
The penalty may be as severe as a student being expelled from school in the most extreme cases. India’s Hon’ble Supreme Court created a committee headed by Dr. R K Raghavan to provide suggestions for combating racial tensions and bullying in educational institutions across the country. The committee’s report was made public in 2007.
Anti-ragging committees have also been created by the University Grants Commission (UGC) in UGC-approved institutions and universities. Additionally, UGC said that faculties and institutions are required to adhere to anti-ragging policies, and that if they do not, UGC may revoke their accreditation.
The “UGC Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Education Institutions, 2009” has been adopted in order to curb bullying in colleges and universities. As a result of the Juvenile Justice Act, many of the pupils in our country’s schools are minors.
According to the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1973, a university student who is the perpetrator of cyberbullying may be held legally accountable.
Due to the rapid advancement of technology, India urgently needs a comprehensive law on cybercrime. Because cyberspace is constantly evolving, unlike physical space, it is impossible to predict in advance the kind of crimes that will be committed on it. Because cybercrime has the potential to become nasty in the future, it must be tackled as soon as possible.
Mental health professionals should be consulted in the development of such laws, since these offences have a greater impact on the mental health of the individual than their physical health. The perpetrator and victim may both benefit from counselling after such instances, since the goal is to educate the public and help them realise their faults, and in many cases the abusers themselves have a history of bullying themselves.
As a result, current legislation should be changed to better serve children, and reporting portals for these offences should be established.
If the victims of cybercrime are allowed to suffer much longer, the notion of justice would be shattered. With the growth of technology, it is vital to establish certain ground rules for its usage. At a cost to hundreds of innocents, these technologies assist us to become a more developed nation.
Even the constitutionally protected right to free speech is subject to certain reasonable limitations, and the same should be true of freedom of speech on the internet. The right to express oneself on any subject should be honoured even if others disagree with it. However, it should not be acceptable to use this freedom to harass or threaten someone emotionally, which is why well-drafted legislation is urgently needed.
- Gaur, K. D. Textboook on the Indian Penal Code. Universal Law Publishers, 2011.
- Kowalski, Robin M., Susan P. Limber, and Patricia W. Agatston, eds. Cyber Bullying. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 2008. https://doi.org/10.1002/9780470694176.
- Cherian, Vigy Elizebth. “Cyberbulling.” Research Journal of Science and Technology 11, no. 1 (2019): 73. https://doi.org/10.5958/2349-2988.2019.00011.1.
- “Laws, Policies & Regulations.” StopBullying.gov. Accessed 20 January 2022. https://www.stopbullying.gov/resources/laws.
- “Cyberbullying Research in India – Cyberbullying Research Center.” Cyberbullying Research Center. Accessed 20 January 2022. https://cyberbullying.org/research/map/india.