Need for statutory provision for serious crimes like Cyberbullying

Cyberbullying (Representational Image)
Cyberbullying (Representational Image)

As COVID-19 is at its peak and has given rise to lockdown situations in our country, everyone is fighting it at various fronts, but teenagers and women, on the other hand, are fighting a parallel war i.e the virtual war to stay safe. They are facing cyberbullying through social media websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram which has created so much mental trauma to them.

The laws in place like the Indian Penal Code, Information Technology Act, Protection of Children from Sexual Offences, have no mention of the offence of ‘Cyberbullying’.Nor Cyber Bullying itself is defined.

Schools and colleges in metropolitan cities like Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore, Kolkata have no provision of ‘Cyber Cells’ in their institutions to facilitate the victim for legal assistance and emotional support. Due to which the teenage suicide cases are shooting up.There should be counselling cell at every work place too as due to social media use there are possibilities employees are bullied by their peers at work place and it leads to immense harassment and such victims need immediate counseling session to enable them to fight out against bully’s .


In world of cyber space, a troll is a person who starts flame wars or intentionally upsets people on the Internet by posting inflammatory and digressive,extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community (such as a twitter, newsgroup, forum, chat room, or blog) with the intent of provoking readers/users into displaying emotional responses and normalizing tangential discussion,either for the troll’s amusement or a specific gain or for harassment. These days trolling is constant and bullying is become a continuous offence in every sphere of communication on social media.Targets would be easy write up of words or sentences to which is social media defamation of a person irrespective of gender , it can be anyone by electronic medium and more so a personal revenge out break is seen by hampering a highly reputed persons achievements by  one single post.

However, the word has also been used more widely. Media attention in recent years has equated trolling with online harassment.  Easy definition of “troll” to mean “a person who defaces Internet tribute sites with the aim of causing grief to families, psychological disturbances and leading to deep depression for individual and their families.”

Most people consider the internet as a platform which provides them anonymity and use it to victimize others for their personal gains. It’s extremely easy to hide your identity on the internet and express your feelings without the fear of being caught. Whether celebrities, politicians or regular citizens, online trolls target everyone equally and factually hardly cases are reported.

With the advancement of technology, the unforeseen events of cyber offences also came into existence in cyberspace world. One such being of Cyber bullying, is an intentional aggressive act by an individual or a group of people done repeatedly over the electronic form of contact. It is not defined specifically in any law. But to get understanding Cyberbullying is a form of harassment where a person hides behind a screen and mentally tortures the other person. It can occur over any social networking site, over SMS, Email, Instant Message Service or any other platform over the electronic world.  

This type of bullying can be done in various ways, some of them is as under:

  • Hacking personal e-accounts again and again;
  • Flaming, which is the use for derogatory, vulgar, or insensitive language to attack someone;
  • Sending hurtful or inappropriate messages to harass someone;
  • Sharing without consent someone’s private messages or a picture or threatening/blackmailing to do so;
  •  Impersonating someone and damaging their reputation which would include the easy offence of social media defamation ;
  • Threatening someone to commit an act of violence or threats of pornography;
  • Stalking someone and sending targeted messages; etc.
  • Recording conversations audio/video by spy software’s without the user knowing it.
  • Creating groups to cyber harass an individual
  • Photo shopping pictures and making memes to harm someone’s reputation.

In short technology if used beyond permissible limits leads to the creation of such acts. There are many cyber offences which still cannot be predicted due to the advancement of technology, due to lack of data protection act and artificial intelligence over time.


Legal Provisions

There is no specific statute that deals with Cyber-bullying as a crime, but some sections of The Information Technology Act, 2000The Indian Penal Code, 1860, and The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 deals with the similar issues and can come under the wide scope of cyber-bullying.

  • Under the IT Act, Section 66 talks about computer related offences under which the person is held liable for a maximum term of three years or for fine up to Rs five lakh or both. 
  • Under this provision, section 66 C talks about punishment of Identity
  • Theft or as it is also known as impersonation, section 66 D deals with the punishment of cheating by personating or by using the computer or online resources
  •  66 E deals with the punishment of violation of a person’s privacy, 
  • section 67 talks about Publishing or transmitting obscene material through electronic
  • section 67 A which talks about the same but also consists of sexually explicit act 
  • section 67 B talks about the publishing of such materials depicting children in electronic form which can be excused if it is for public good and learning or is kept or used for bona fide heritage or religious purposes.
  • Few specific, provisions of IPC that deals with cyber-crimes are:
  • Section 292 A, which talks about printing of indecent matter or matter for blackmail, the matter should be injurious to the morality or should be calculated to injure a person and the offender will be imprisoned for a maximum period of two years and will also be liable to fine. 
  • Section 354 A talks about sexual harassment of unwelcome physical contact or of the nature of making sexually coloured remark or demand/request for sexual favors of pornography.
  • Section 354 D talks about stalking or attempting to or actually contacting a woman and the offender will be liable for three years for first attempt and five years max for any subsequent attempt. Section 499 talks about defamation i.e. when a person by spoken words or signs makes or publishes something with intent to harm the reputation of the other person, the same can be done over electronic means as well. 
  •  Section 507 talks about criminal intimidation through any anonymous communication/means and the offender will be liable for a period of two years max.
  • Section 509   deals with the offenders who intend to insult the modesty of women by words or gestures by intruding the privacy of the women and such offenders will be punished for a term of one year or fine or both. 


From the above, it is clear that there is no specific statutory provision for cyberbullying which is an urgent need today. Lawmaking authorities should either consider amendments in present law or a fresh bill with guidelines of social media content in which the public will be restricted to libel/slander any person by social media tool. As victims of bullying on the internet suffer negatively to an extent that they lose their reputation, social standing and also they get involved in self-harm to such an extent that there is no cure to get back to normalcy. 

Dhruti Kapadia

Written by Dhruti Kapadia

Solicitor and Advocate-on-record, Supreme Court of India

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