REVENGE PORN- ONLINE ABUSE AND INDIAN LAW

By: Vaishali Jain

INTRODUCTION

Revenge pornography is described as “dissemination or posting sexually explicit media without the consent of the individual in the media, especially where the intent is to shame, humiliate and frighten the person or otherwise cause them harm.”[1]

Revenge porn is an act of invasion of privacy. It is often done by ex-partners/former lovers who are seeking vengeance after a breakup by sharing sexually explicit images and obscene videos.

The patriarchal nature of Indian society takes the approach of slut-shaming and victim blaming which inflicts anxiety and emotional distress to the victim of revenge porn. The menace of victim shaming discourages and prevents the victims to report the incident to the police and register a FIR. In some instances, victims commit suicide due to the bullying and harassment.[2]

LEGAL REVENGE AGAINST REVENGE PORNERS

Indian does not have an explicit law to deal with revenge porn. The legal provisions to cover the crime are entailed in 2 statutes namely, the Information and Technology Act, 2000 (hereinafter referred to as ‘IT Act’) and the Indian Penal Code, 1860. (hereinafter referred to as ‘IPC’)

Section 66E IT Act- Punishment for violation of Privacy

It is stated in the section that any person who intentionally or knowingly captures, publishes or transmits the image of a private area of any person without consent, is in violation of privacy. The punishment shall be imprisonment which may extend to 3 years or a fine upto 2 lakhs.

Section 67A IT ActPunishment for publishing transmitting materially containing sexually explicit act in electronic form.

Section 292 IPC- Circulation and distribution of obscene material [which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest].

Section 354C IPC- Voyeurism

The section states that if any man watches or captures a woman engaged in a private act and disseminates such image, he shall be punished with imprisonment upto 3 years or fine.

Section 509 IPC- Act intended to outrage the modesty of a woman.

CASES OF REVENGE PORN IN INDIA

  • State of West Bengal V. Animesh Boxi[3]

The accused was in a relationship with the victim and acquired intimate pictures from the victim under the guise of promise to marry her. When the victim ended the relationship, the accused posted pictures and videos on a pornographic website with her name. The accused was sentenced to five years in jail and fined Rs.9000 by a West Bengal Sessions Court for uploading objectionable pictures of the girl without her consent. The Court also went a step further and instructed the State government to treat the victim as a rape survivor and compensate her accordingly.

  • RE: Prajwala Letter dates 18.02.15 Videos of Sexual Violence and Recommendation[4]

NGO Prajwala wrote a letter enclosing two rape clips being disseminated and circulated on the internet. The Supreme Court took a suo moto writ petition based on the letter. The Court ordered Government to finalize a ‘Standard Operating Procedure’ for cyber police portals who are entrusted to handle complaints involving child pornography, child sexual abuse material, rape and gang rape videos and obscene content.

  • Subhranshu Rout V. State of Odisha[5]

The perpetrator and the victim were in a relationship. The attacker went to the victim’s house one day and assaulted her while she was alone at home. He also recorded the horrendous incident on his cell phone. The perpetrator threatened the victim that if she disclosed the incident to anybody; he would release the photos and videos to public. When the victim narrated the incident to her parents, the perpetrator uploaded all the objectionable photos on Facebook. The Court while refusing to grant bail to the perpetrator noted that “allowing such objectionable photos and videos to remain on social media without her consent is a direct affront on a woman’s modesty and right to privacy.”

The Hon’ble Court also emphasised on the significance of ‘Right to be Forgotten’ (getting the photos deleted from the server permanently) in the context of right to privacy.

CONCLUSION

Revenge porn victims become easy targets of stalking, harassment and rape threats. They suffer dreadful consequence such as reputational harm, emotional injury and loss of job prospect.[6]  Release of intimate pictures and videos online can inflict grave psychological harm to the victim. A provision to provide counselling to the victim during the trial can help victims in coping up with the adverse effects of the crime.

A victim-sensitive approach from the police can help in enhancing the chances of victim to report the crime and register FIR.[7] Sensitization of law enforcement, prosecutors and judges can prevent secondary victimization.[8] Change in the societal outlook and a victim-oriented environment can go a long way in helping the victim to recover from the dreaded incident. Furthermore, educating children about cyberbullying and the consequences of online behaviour will ensure that they grow up to be good and responsible citizens.[9]


[1] Thomas Lonardo, Tricia Martland, Doug White, “A Legal Examination Of Revenge Pornography And Cyber Harassment”, The Journal of Digital Forensics, Security And Law, [2016], Available at: https://commons.erau.edu/jdfsl/vol11/iss3/8/

[2] Tegan Starr and Tiffany Lavis, “Perceptions Of Revenge Pornography And Victim Blame”, International Journal Of Cyber Criminology, [January,2018], Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335976380_Perceptions_of_Revenge_Pornography_and_Victim_Blame

[3] State of West Bengal v Animesh Boxi, C.R.M. No. 11806 of 2017

[4] 2018 SCC OnLine SC 2111

[5] 2020 SCC OnLine Ori 878

[6] Clay Calvert, “Revenge Porn and Freedom of Expression: Legislative Pushback To An Online Weapon of Emotional And Reputational Destruction”, Fordham Intellectual Property, Media and Entertainment Law Journal, [2014], Available at: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/144230647.pdf

[7] Chitrangada Sharma, Revenge Porn: Offending and Victimization in Digital Age, National Law University, [2019], Available at: http://14.139.58.147:8080/jspui/bitstream/123456789/299/1/32LLM18.pdf

[8] Id

[9] Justice J.S. Verma, Justice Leila Seth, Gopal Subramanium, “Report Of The Committee on Amendments To Criminal Law”, Justice Verma Committee, [January 23, 2013], Available at: https://www.prsindia.org/uploads/media/Justice%20verma%20committee/js%20verma%20committe%20report.pdf


Short notes

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