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Regulations for Online Child Sexual Abuse in India

  • Published
    22nd Oct, 2022
Context

Recently, as per the data collected by the CBI via conducting searches across States and Union Territories as part of a pan-India operation, ‘Megh Chakra’ against the online circulation and sharing of Child Sexual Abusive Material (CSAM), growing instances of online child sexual abuses has been found.

There is a need to focus on the legislations regarding the issue.

Background

  • In India, though viewing adult pornography in private is not an offence; seeking, browsing, downloading or exchanging child pornography is an offence punishable under the IT Act.
  • However, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are exempted from liability for any third-party data if they do not initiate the transmission.
  • As the public reporting of circulation of online CSAM is very low and there is no system of automatic electronic monitoring, India’s enforcement agencies are largely dependent on foreign agencies for the requisite information.
  • In November 2021, a similar exercise code-named “Operation Carbon” was launched by the CBI, against the cause.

About

Legislations against Online child sexual abuse in India:

  • The IT Act 2000:
    • Section 67B of the Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 provides stringent punishment for publishing, transmitting, or viewing child sexual abuse material online.
    • The Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 empower the users of Intermediaries and make the social media platforms accountable for their safety.
    • The Rules require the intermediaries to adopt a robust grievance redressal mechanism including time-bound disposal of grievances.
    • The government periodically blocks the websites containing outer child sexual abuse material (CSAM) based on INTERPOL’s “worst of the list” received through the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the national nodal agency for Interpol in India.
    • The Information Technology Act, of 2000 provides a legal framework for addressing all types of prevailing cybercrimes reported in the country.
  • POCSO Act:
    • Further, Section 14 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offence (POCSO) Act provides Punishment for using children for pornographic purposes. As per section 14:
    • Whoever uses a child or children for pornographic purposes shall be punished with imprisonment for a term that shall not be less than five years.

Preventing children abuse:

  1. The role of parents: Parents must educate children about sexual advances or threats and protect them from abuse through the concept of unacceptable “bad touch”. This communication must be constant, friendly, and frank, and teach children how their sexuality works so they don’t unknowingly harass others.
  2. Donate money to NGOs: NGOs like Save the Children have dedicated services fighting child sex abuse and providing rehab to victims of abuse. It conducts pan-India programs engaging parents, teachers, communities, and even children about sexual abuse. Adolescents are involved in elaborate projects on Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH).
  3. Reporting incidents of child abuse:
    • Online system for children to report sexual abuse
    • Report it to the police

India’s efforts so far:

  • ‘Aarambh India’, a Mumbai-based non-governmental organization, partnered with the IWF and launched India’s first online reporting portal in September 2016 to report images and videos of child abuse.
  • The Supreme Court of India, in Shreya Singhal (2015), said that Section 79(3)(b) of the IT Act means that the ISP, only upon receiving actual knowledge of the court order or on being notified by the appropriate government, shall remove or disable access to illegal contents.
    • Thus, ISPs are exempted from the liability of any third-party information.
  • In the Kamlesh Vaswani (WP(C) 177/2013) case, the petitioner sought a complete ban on pornography. 
  • As per Section 88 of the IT Act, the orders were issued in March 2015 to Internet Service Providers to disable nine (domain) URLs that hosted contents in violation of the morality and decency clause of Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
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