India is one of the fastest developing countries in the world. It has shown immense development in various fields which include healthcare, defence, economics and technology. But in the last two decades India has seen significant advancement in technology, especially in terms of internet penetration in every corner of the country. According to latest reports of Internet & Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) India has surpassed all other nations becoming the second largest internet consumer base as of year 2020. The pandemic has attributed to such a tremendous increase in the number of users and internet consumption per hour in a day. The internet penetration in the nation stood at 50% which is 27% more than 2015. Rapid growth in technology and advancements it is now possible for every Indian to use internet in some way or the other. Surely, India in right sense can be called as an emerging digital nation like China and the USA. The government of India in 2015 launched a project called as “Digital India” which aims at making every citizen empowered with power of digitalization. In order to fulfill the same goal government has set up new portals and websites to provide various government and state-based services to the citizens just a click away. But in the race of development and attempt to reach milestone we often forget that technology is a boon when it serves and a bane when it makes us the servants. With the vast cyberspace in India the threats related to cybercrime, cyber bullying and cyber security are also increasing. In recent reports of National Crime Record’s Bureau, the number of cybercrimes reported increased by 63% in 2019 from 2018. Easy access and availability with every single person including those who are habitual offenders in the eyes of law have led to this situation. If these concerns are not taken care of, they can do some irreparable damage that will cost us not just money but lives too. Understanding the threats and increasing crime rate India has legislated and incorporated different provisions to fight back all kinds of cybercrime. Cybercrime includes cases of online fraud, cyber stalking, identity theft, hacking, spreading hate and terrorism, cyber bullying, phishing etc.
What is a Cyber Bullying?
Bullying as we understand is the act of causing some harm or suffering to a person by way of stalking, abusing, harassing, intimidating and in various other ways. It can be done physically or mentally. Bullying done might not always amount to a criminal act but when the severity of the act increases it might turn into an offence as prohibited by law. Not just India but countries all over the world has seen emergence cases of cyber bullying in last two decades more which were negligible before. An overlap thus can be seen between traditional ways of bullying and cyber bullying. It will not be wrong to say cyber bullying is modern way to bully.
Cyber bullying is bullying done in a cyberspace. Cyber bullying is the harassment or abuse done through an electronic or any other medium of communication like mobile phones, computer, phone calls, emails, text messages, video calls, chats, social media platforms or social networking websites. It can take many forms ranging from insults, threats, spreading rumours, impersonation, social boycott to leaking one’s secret.
Why is Cyber Bullying concerning?
Cyber bullying can leave a lifelong impression on the body, mind and heart of the victim. The act of cyber bullying can be so aggressive that it can change the life of a person in so many ways. On the surface the act might not look as much damaging but it can scar a person forever. Various ways in which one can be affected by cyber bullying are:
Emotional Effects: Cyber bullying done in cyberspace causes a lot of humiliation for the victim as it affects his social life and status. They feel degraded and let down in front of their near and dear ones. Especially, among the youth this can cause serious effects. Cyber bullying also brings out the feeling of distrust and insecurity which leads to isolation of a victim from everyone. Keeping things to themselves creates lot of anger and frustration in the mind of the victim.
Mental Effects: Cyber bullying can lead to depression, anxiety, low confidence and self-esteem. Dealing with cyber bullying takes away a person’s happiness and sense of satisfaction. It can make them live in fear for their entire life and cause even more damage. It might even push the victim to take his or her own life because it might get too much to handle.
Physical Effects: The stress of bullying also can cause or worsen conditions like upset stomach, abdominal pain, and stomach ulcers. It can lead to uneven sleeping cycles and weaken the body of the victim furthermore.
What are the legal provisions in India for fighting Cyber Bulling?
There is no separate law that governs the crimes done in the cyberspace in India. However, there are other statutes that cover cybercrime and the victim can take relief under it.
1. Provisions under Indian Penal Code, 1860: Indian Penal Code is the governing code for all the criminal acts in India. There are several provisions that cover cybercrimes including cyber bullying but not specifically for the offence. Such provisions are as follows:
Ø Section 354( C): It states that any person clicking the picture of a woman without her permission or keeping an eye on her at place where she would not expect it or where such woman is involved in some private act. Peron shall be punished with imprisonment of one to three years. The intensity of punishment increases for the repeated offenders.
Ø Section 354 (D): Any person found guilty of stalking someone, monitoring someone’s private activities, their whereabouts, their daily lives, without their permission and knowledge on the internet with an intention to harm or hurt that person, which is somehow cyberbullying, the person stalking must be punished with up to 3 years.
Ø Section 66A: This section makes it an offence if a person sends objectionable, derogatory, abusive, hurtful messages or material online through internet using any medium. Punishment shall be up to three years of imprisonment or fine.
Ø Section 66D: Any person impersonating using the computer or other electronic device of other shall be punished for three years of imprisonment or fine.
Ø Section 66E: Publishing or transmitting private area of any person without his or her consent etc. Punishment is three years imprisonment or two lakh rupees fine or both.
Ø Section 67: This section deals with the transmission of any obscene material through electronic mode. The person who publishes or transmits such material shall be punished with three years and fine of five lakh rupees and in second conviction for a term of five years and fine of ten lakh rupees or both. This section is of immense importance of this Act and the first ever conviction done under this section was in the landmark case of State of Tamil Nadu vs Suhas Katti in year 2004.
Ø Section 67A: This section deals with publishing or transmitting of material with sexually explicit act in electronic form. Elements of Section 67 when clubbed with the material containing sexually explicit material attract penalty under this Section.
The rate at which cybercrimes are increasing in India and especially of cyber bullying is concerning. The awareness about the crime of cyber bullying has not reached the minds of every internet user yet and the legislation for preventing the offence is not that effective. The current provisions under Indian Penal Code and Information Act are not enough as there are high chances of finding loopholes. Serious amendments need to be brought in these legislations by adding or enforcing a new law with this regard. India has now become the second largest cyber hub in terms of internet usage of which over 15% of these users are of age 5 to 11 years. Apart from making changes and enforcing new laws government with the help of right authorities, making children, their parents, women and other users aware about the offence of cyber bullying will help in curbing it. It has been seen that sometimes the victim does not even know what is happening with them and what they should do about it. As a welfare state it is the duty of those in power to make sure that with advancement in technology the security, safety and person of the citizens are not threatened.
 Digbijay Mishra & Madhav Chanchani, ‘For the first time, India has more rural net users than urban’ Times of India (Bengaluru, 6 May 2020) Sandhya Keelery, ‘Internet penetration rate in India 2007-2021’ (Statista, 27 April 2021)  Erin Peebles, ‘Cyberbullying: Hiding behind the screen’ ( NCBI Paediatr Child Health, December 2014)  Indian Penal Code, 1860 s 507  Suryansh Kumar Arora, ‘Cyber Bullying Laws in India’ (2020)  Information Technology Act, 2005
~Authored by Malvika Singhal