Essex man who hacked into the Snapchat accounts of girls and young women from different countries including UK, Australia, Hongkong, Romania etc and forced victims to share their intimate images with him, gets arrested, charged and finally gets jail sentence for 11 years. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-essex-55549628
In 2012 the then chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee took a strong a note for Ambarish Mahapatra’s very bold, excessively strong post including a cartoon showcasing Didi and Mukul Roy, who was the then state minister for railways. The cartoon included the railway logo. Mahapatra was arrested in 2012 and later released. In 2015 the courts ordered that Mahapatra should be compensated for the wrongful arrest. Clearly, the court gave a red signal to the West Bengal government for wanting to use executive power to shun critics of the government on internet media. Quite at this time, the courts accepted the arguments of Shreya Singhal for scrapping off S.66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) which was considered as a draconian law for the bad drafting and equally bad usage of the same by the government. The Supreme Court could have strongly advised for amending the provision which could offer a wonder anti bullying law. But the last stroke was given by the then UP government by arresting a juvenile for his post on internet just before the court could even consider on 66A. The court laid 66A to rest judicially. What lurked on was the issue of usage of government logo in criticism speech.
Why Attorney General of India has to give a consent for contempt of court proceeding for a criticizing speech? Armed by Shreya SInghal judgement in 2015, many started openly criticizing the government. This is indeed a healthy sign of a strong democracy. In the US the right to criticize the government had remained a celebrated right. Cases like New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254, 283 (1964) or Bantam Books, Inc. v. Sullivan, 372 U.S. 58, 70 (1963) has deeply influenced the speech rights which have been taken over by the internet companies including Facebook and Twitter post millennium. First Amendment right to speech and expression became broader over the years giving the internet companies extreme power to deny most of the (non- US) government-backed requests for taking down of contents because according to them such speech did not violate their policies which were based on US First Amendment guarantees. Twitter however had remained a favorite platform for celebrities, right activists and politicians to express their opinion ‘in short’. This gave rise to use creative, expressive and bold languages to express opinions within 120 words plus ‘threads’. In late September and early November, 2020, social media platforms including Twitter saw a wave of sympathy, hatred and apathy towards the arrest of Arnab Goswamy and his release from the prison on interim bail by the Supreme Court. Goswamy, a journalist and managing director and editor-in –chief of Republic TV, was arrested for alleged abetment for suicide of a Mumbai based designer and his mother. Kunal Kamra, a standup comedian, like many other non-supporters of Goswami had strongly objected for the interim bail of Goswami over Twitter. But this could have been considered as a very normal ‘protest’ by Kamra, provided he would not have pulled in the integrity of Supreme Court of India. His post included a picture of the Supreme Court building covered with saffron color with the flag of the ruling BJP party atop it. What was wrong in this? (i) Using derogatory remarks towards the integrity and impartial nature of the supreme court while deciding the interim bail application of Goswami ? or (ii) using the picture of the Supreme Court colored in saffron which may indicate its loyalty to a particular community, political party or idealism? Or (iii) morphing the picture of the building by putting the political party’s flag atop the building instead of the tricolor?
If we take point number (i), we would see that even though the Supreme Court is not a protected entity which should be considered as above free speech especially related to criticism, it has taken strong note against those who had published, posted, uploaded, shared derogatory comments on the integrity of the institution, the judges, personal reputation of the judges and their family members. Justice Karnan’s case is a good example in this regard. This ex-judge of Madras High court was condemned not only by Madras High court, but also by several women lawyer’s associations in India for sharing sexually explicit and obscene remarks about the female judges and the wives of other judges. The Madras High Court had also asked the social media platforms to remove the contents posted by justice Karnan in this regard. Second and third points definitely attract my attention here as the morphing of the building attracts penal provisions not only from Article 19 (2) of the Constitution of India, which discusses about restriction of free speech under Indian constitution, but also from The Emblems And Names (Prevention Of Improper Use) Act, 1950. The later statute in S. 3 prohibits improper use of certain names and ensembles and this includes emblem and picture of Supreme Court building as well. But we need to note that even though the morphing and re presentation of the building had taken place on Twitter, Information Technology Act, 2000 (amended in 2008) may not be attracted that effectively because of the absence of S.66A . The issue of Kamra publishing the ‘wrong’ image of Supreme Court is so heavy that it has attracted charges for criminal contempt of court for which the Attorney General of India has consented for initiating the proceedings against Kamra. To a certain extent, this consent may depend on the discretionary power of the Attorney General as well especially when he sees the matter from the perspective of utter disrespect to the institution of Supreme Court. Kamra however maintained that he won’t apologies, neither would he remove his content from Twitter in this regard.
Here, I cannot hold myself back from mentioning about the plight of millions of women victims of trolling, morphing and revenge porn who may suffer endlessly because of long life of their fake avatars on internet. If only courts and civil society members were much aware about the issue, courts could have taken a strong note of cyber victimization of women as well. But here comes the key player: the web platform.
Twitter in the middle of the storm: Twitter is the platform for the alleged offence committed by Kamra. But quite simultaneously Twitter attracted another ref eye of the government and the courts: Leh, the joint capital of Union territory of Ladakh was recently shown as part of Jammu and Kashmir on Twitter. This indeed attracts a huge public, political and constitutional sentiments after the recent scrapping of Article 370 by the present government of India which made Ladakh (of which Leh is the capital town) a union territory and no more part of Jammu and Kashmir. Twitter was notified and as the existing laws mandate, Twitter may even get suspended if it does not rectify the mistake. But not to forget, including Twitter all the US based social media companies have a wonderful trick to avoid the government and court notices by indicating that ‘they are looking into the matter’. There are hundreds of public interest litigations filed in the Supreme Court on the issue of women and child safety on internet and the responsibility of the internet companies. In almost all cases, all the companies escaped the clutches of S. 69 B (power to issue notice for blocking the website/contents etc) by the very slippery gateway of S.79 of the Information technology Act (exemption from liability of intermediary to certain cases).
Be it the case of Kunal Kamra or anyone else who may be victimizing anyone including private individuals or the highest courts of judicature, social media companies will remain as they have remained, being the chosen platform of the government to have a handle to encourage accessibility of justice, good governance etc.
Comes the decision of internet regulation by State made laws: Amidst all these pandemonium, the Indian government literally blew the bugle against millions of free speech activists when it announced about the decision for internet regulation by state made laws. The ministry of Information and Broad casting may extend their jurisdiction to internet media if this decision is fructified. The free speech advocates fear that this decision may result in situations like the 1975-77 emergency period where the then prime minister tried to gag the free speech and expression rights of print and television media. Their apprehension is not baseless because this decision comes at a time when police is seen busy to manage issues related several fake news and fake avatars of the ruling and opposition political parties and net streaming which speak about sex . But this decision, if fructified, may also bring cheers to women victims of misogynist trolls, fake avatar, revenge porn, nonconsensual porn as well. While many may fear that such regulation may chock free flowing of adult contents, we must not forget that our courts once refused to provide a blanket ban on porn provided it is viewed by the viewer without offending anyone and the content is made legally with consenting adult actors. However the fear and apprehension weighs more than the cheers because the government may not always abide by the court rulings: the best example is, statutorily S.66A is in deep coma, but not dead.
Hope continues for women victims? But the tussle over the moral wrong of ‘to watch or to block the entire content’ or the heavy examples set by Attorney General of India for a morphed photograph of the building of Supreme Court and derogatory comments about the institution itself probably cannot minimize online victimization of women who undergo morphing and are targeted with hate speech on internet vigorously. I hope such strong actions touch the issue of cyber victimization of women and girls strongly. If internet is to be regulated, let it be so judiciously and for proper causes.
 Halder, Debarati, A Retrospective Analysis of Section 66A: Could Section 66A of the Information Technology Act be Reconsidered for Regulating ‘Bad Talk’ in the Internet? (August 24, 2015). Halder Debarati (2015) A RETROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS OF SECTION 66 A: COULD SECTION 66 A OF THE INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY ACT BE RECONSIDERED FOR REGULATING “BAD TALK” IN THE INTERNET? Published in Indian Student Law Review (ISLR) 2015 (1) PP 99-128 ISSN 2249-4391, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2650239 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2650239
 S.3 of The Emblems And Names (Prevention Of Improper Use) Act, 1950 states as follows: 3. Prohibition of improper use of certain emblems and names.—Notwithstanding anything
contained in any law for the time being in force, no person shall, except in such cases and under such
conditions as may be prescribed by the Central Government, use or continue to use, for the purpose of any
trade, business, calling or profession, or in the title of any patent, or in any trade mark or design, any
name or emblem specified in the Schedule or any colourable imitation thereof without the previous
permission of the Central Government or such officer of Government as may be authorised in this behalf
by the Central Government.
 See S.17 of the Schedule attached to The Emblems And Names (Prevention Of Improper Use) Act, 1950 , which includes the followings in the prohibited list: namely, “The name of the Parliament or the Legislature of any State, or the Supreme Court, or the High Court of any State, or the Central Secretariat, or the Secretariat of any State Government or any other Government Office or the pictorial representation of any building occupied by any of the aforesaid institutions”.
First published @https://debaraticyberspace.blogspot.com/2020/11/plight-of-punita-common-tale-of.html?spref=fb&fbclid=IwAR2_sKM13spiQ4r6CletmvaLG8z7orClpR7MQOIHhnahcTMl1O678NhnY_c
In 2012 “Nirbhaya” a young female paramedic was brutally gang raped in a cold December night in Delhi, India. Within a few days the police nabbed the offenders and arrested them. All 6 of them were from northern parts of India who came down to Delhi for making their living. All of them were working as transport workers including driver, conductor, cleaner etc. Within a few days of their arrest, the victim died because of the impact of the assault and internal injuries. The charges against the accused were enhanced from rape to include murder under the Indian Penal Code. Among the 6 accused persons, the prime accused committed suicide. Even though the case was taken over by fast track trial court, it took around 10 months for the trial court to convict the accused and award death penalty to the surviving 5 accused. The death penalty was upheld by the Supreme Court of India in 2017. In between one of the accused pleaded to be considered as minor and was declared as minor and hence was dealt under the Juvenile justice administration system. However neither the Supreme Court, nor the high court prevented the accused persons from exercising their rights to appeal against the capital sentence. The Supreme Court considered this case as rarest of rare cases. Except the minor, other convicted accused did not however succeed in their respective pleas to the Supreme Court to reverse the sentence to life imprisonment and the President for mercy petition. All four of the adult convicts were hanged in the wee hours of 20th March, 2020. Immediately after this the Covid 19 lockdown was clamped strictly almost all over the world preventing several litigants, victims to approach the courts as courts also suffered due to pandemic.
None of the convicted persons in NIrbhaya case came from socio-economically forward class. Except one, others did not complete their basic education as well. Some researches including the controversial India’s Daughter documentary claimed that lack of education could have been the main reason to defy the laws for violating women in this regard. While almost all such researches and findings were concerned about the perpetrators, not many looked into the fate of the wives of such sex offenders who may not have received primary education and may not have been allowed to access justice for themselves because of being women and living in patriarchal societies. Punita, wife of Akshay Thakur, who was one of the convicts, tried her level best to convince the courts and the society at large in her own way that if her husband was hanged, she and her minor son would have to die. On the final day of hearing she was seen shouting, crying, beating herself and fainting before the Supreme Court building. Her actions attracted media and she was probably encouraged to continue to do what she was doing because that would add more TRP to the stories that were being made on Nirbhaya sentencing. Soon she made headlines in almost all domestic and foreign news channels and she was center of debates for and against death penalty. Simultaneously she was targeted by internet trolls vigorously.
In the recently held 9th international victimology conference organized by Jindal institute of Behavioral Sciences I had addressed the issue of cyber victimization of Punita through my paper titled “Critical analysis of the case of wife of Nirbhaya rape convict: therapeutic jurisprudence & cyber victimological perspectives”. While the media could successfully (and probably rightly) generate public sympathy for the rape victim and her family, they generated extreme hatred to Punita because she was apparently ‘supporting her husband’. The internet platforms added fuel to the fire in this hate campaign. If one sees the news reports on Punita Devi on the social media handles of the news media channels, one would get to see that the comments posted about her and opinion generated on her created extremely negative profile of hers which would go a long way to prevent her from getting any job in any private or public sector. It was a visual victimization of Punita on cyber space which still exists on cyber space and will be existing forever. In my earlier research on visual victimization of women on cyber space, I had observed that the victims of such visual victimizations may now know about their online victimization because they may never get access to the internet and digital communication media as their urban counterparts may get, which may eventually help the later to reach the criminal justice machinery to remove these contents.
Women such as Punita are often seen as ‘co-accused’ by the public at large. Coming from socio-economically backward communities and being educationally challenged, most wives of sex offenders in several Asian countries (where patriarchy rules), may not be allowed to access justice for themselves. Apparently she approached the family court in her native district for divorce because the Hindu Marriage Act under S.13B(2ii) allows women to get ‘quick’ divorce under special grounds which includes conviction of husband for rape, sodomy, bestiality etc. But she was too late in approaching the court. She did not want to live as a widow of a hanged rapist. She preferred to be a divorcee. Women in such situations are blamed by the families and public at large for failing to satisfy their husbands sexually and materialistically which may have encouraged the later to go ahead for raping and sexually assaulting other women. These women cannot go ahead for divorce while the trial is on because this would not only attract social taboo, it will also push such women to extreme poverty: they have to leave the matrimonial homes, they may not be accepted in their parental homes and they may not get any financial support from anyone.
How can Therapeutic Jurisprudence help? Justice Krishna Iyer a legendary judge who introduced new paradigm to reformative justice in India mentioned about applying Therapeutic jurisprudence in the prisons for reforming the prisoners in 1970’s. But after him we did not get to see the use of the term by the judges while dealing with reformative criminal jurisprudence in India. In numbers of my researches however I have shown that the concept of Therapeutic Jurisprudence has submissively influenced the Indian judges. The spirit of Therapeutic Jurisprudence may help wives of sex offenders especially in countries like India. In my earlier research titled “Free Legal Aid for women and Therapeutic Jurisprudence: A critical examination of the Indian model”, which was published In the edited book volume titled Methodology And Practice Of Therapeutic Jurisprudence Research edited by Stobbs Nigel, Bartel Lorana & Vols.M , I had observed that women especially from socioeconomically backward communities may not be permitted to access justice even if the legal counseling is freely available through free legal aid clinics. This situation may be improved by vigorous campaigning by legal aid volunteers and law students. The law students, practitioners and judges must be sensitized about Therapeutic jurisprudence and law’s therapeutic effects which may bring tremendous change in women empowerment. Wives of sex offenders go through tremendous traumatization primarily because they feel cheated in their marriages and then feel threatened when it comes to social security for them. As such, mental wellbeing of these women are least taken care of when the court decides to charge the husbands, i.e. the accused in sex offences. In my presentation in the international victimology conference mentioned above, I have proposed that courts must consider to parallelly counsel such wives through free legal aid cells so that they may be made aware about their rights for divorce, matrimonial alimony, child custody and maintenance for child.
Further, I have also proposed that courts must suomotu consider to pass restraining order for the media houses regarding airing the images of grieving wives, who may or may not be accompanied by their children. These women do not make any ‘drama’ to stall the execution of sentences for supporting their husbands. They express their anger, frustration and fear for their own future which is dependent on the longevity of their husbands. Unfortunately their expression of fear, frustration etc are hugely consumed sadistically by the society at large and due to the non-ending presence of the clippings on the internet, such women may be profiled in a negative way. I have proposed that the scope of Right to be forgotten must be expanded in such cases which the courts must take up extending the power of judicial intervention for ensuring the privacy rights of women. Interestingly many courts across the globe are shifting burden to the website companies for not removing objectionable contents especially when it comes privacy of women and children. India has laws for website liabilities in this regard under S.79 of the Information Technology Act, 2000(amended in 2008). This provision read with Information Technology (reasonable security practices and procedures and sensitive personal data or information ) Rules 2011 mandates that web companies shall be held liable if they do not take down objectionable contents within due time. This brings two major points to be considered: who reports it? Whether this can be considered as ‘protected speech and expression’. Indian judicial understanding regarding freedom of speech on internet is expanding and courts have started using judicial discretion to not to consider each and every speech as speech falling outside the purview of Article 19(1)(A) of the Indian constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and expression as a fundamental right. It is obvious that women such as Punita would not know about such legal jurisprudence. The courts therefore must consider adding this issue in the bag of ‘reformative and rehabilitative considerations’ when awarding the sentences (including life sentence or capital sentences). This may go a long way to prevent secondary victimization of the wives of sex offenders who are ‘innocent victims’ of the entire situation.
It is therefore hoped that if the issue of online as well as real life victimization of the wives of the convicted sex offenders are seen from the Therapeutic Jurisprudential aspects, the rights of women to access justice, rehabilitation and privacy may be secured.
Prof(Dr) Debarati Halder, LL.B, LL.M, Ph.D(Law)(NLSIU) is a Professor at Unitedoworld School of Law, Karnavati University, Gujarat, India. She is the founder of Centre for Cyber Victim Counselling (www.cybervictims.org) and the India chapter head of International Society of Therapeutic Jurisprudence. She is the pioneer in introducing Therapeutic Jurisprudence as a part of credit course in legal education in India. She can be reached @firstname.lastname@example.org
 Halder D., & Jaishankar, K. (2014). Online Victimization of Andaman Jarawa Tribal Women: An Analysis of the Human Safari YouTube Videos (2012) and its Effects. British Journal of Criminology, 54(4), 673-688. (Impact factor 1.556). DOI: 10.1093/bjc/azu026.
 Section 13(2)(ii) in The Hindu Marriage Act, 1955 states
“A wife may also present a petition for the dissolution of her marriage by a decree of divorce on the ground………. that the husband has, since the solemnisation of the marriage, been guilty of rape, sodomy or bestiality”
 See Halder, Debarati, Why Law Fails to Be Therapeutic in Spite of Therapeutic Judicial Efforts: A Critical Analysis of Indian Legal Education From the Therapeutic Jurisprudence Perspective (October 28, 2018). Unitedworld Law Journal, Vol 2, Issue: I, ISSN: 2457-0427, (2018) pp 173-182, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3274175
 Halder, D. (2019), Free Legal Aid for women and Therapeutic Jurisprudence: A critical examination of the Indian model. In Stobbs Nigel, Bartel Lorana & Vols.M (eds.), Methodology And Practice Of Therapeutic Jurisprudence Research. USA: Carolina Academy Press.
During the COVID-19 19 lock down period between march 2020 to almost the end of October 2020, we have seen steep rise of cybercrimes especially cybercrimes against women. These crimes included different patterns: economic crimes, data privacy infringement, child sexual abuse online and creation of widespread hatred. Social media platforms like twitter, Instagram etc., had been flooded with hate messages, fake news, obscene messages etc. but it would be wrong to think that only web-based platforms had been used to creates online harassments or cyber crimes at large. Handheld phones are not spared either. Communication conveyed over phone had been threatening, unwanted and had also taken the nature of bullying. Both the receivers and perpetrators are nothing but Netizens. The concept of Netizens is fiction based just like the concept of cyber space, which finds it roots in the fiction called Neo romancer.
Individuals who live, survive in internet, on the internet and gain infotainment and use internet for connectivity are known as Netizens. The simple connotation of this term could be citizens of net.
But this term has not found any acceptance in any legal statute, international documents speaking about right to access internet, right to be forgotten or even cyber safety, e commerce. This is a popular nickname for all those who use internet, who have been born in the era when internet was booming and those who are connected to each other through information-digital communication technology. Often, we do get to hear that people belonging to the older generation who adopted internet and digital communication technology (because otherwise they could not have survived due to global digital revolution), are called as net immigrants because they may have get accustomed with the digi-culture. But would not prefer to use this term. Worldwide e-governance growth has involved every citizen to become netizen. Digitization by the governments of birth, marriage and death registrations, social security related data, bank data, school data, workplace data, health data, court data and above all internet and digital communication technology consumption data for the purpose of e-governance has therefore made everyone irrespective of age, gender, class, creed etc, netizens.
Netizens play a great role in shaping the livability of themselves as well as other netizens including women and children netizens on cyber space. Laurence Lessig, a pioneering professor on cyberspace regulation predicted that internet will be a virtual livable space with ‘market’ and it would become necessary for State to carefully frame laws to regulate cyber space. His findings stand firm forever. Netizens are important stakeholders for profit generation for internet companies. They also earn by living on the cyber space. By saying this, I however can not ignore the fact that netizens may use internet and cyber space as a whole for ethical as well as unethical profit gain. Consider the positive profit gaining strategies: legal e-commerce activities, earning from content development, etc. The illegal profit gaining part is heavier. Millions of netizens sell and consume data that may have been generated, stored, processed, trafficked in illegal ways. Data of women and girls are the hot priority in this regard. Almost all stakeholders would unanimously agree that cybercrimes against women and girls are rising because of the unmonitored behavior of several netizens.
As such, if we quickly look into the existing constitutional and legal frameworks of different countries, we can see that almost all countries have knowingly or unknowingly developed certain rights and duties for netizens. These rights and duties are universal in nature and may include freedom of speech and expression, right to privacy, right to access justice, right to information, right to live a dignified life and right to be forgotten. Simultaneously the duties may include duty to respect others rights on the cyber space as well as in real life, duty not to incite hatred, not to infringe privacy, copy right of other netizens including organizations and government data etc. the prime duty of every netizen however is to help the victim of online abuse by reporting right violation because if they remain mute spectators, they would become bystanders and add to visual victimization of the victim/s.
We can also see that existing laws have extended penal provisions to charge the netizens for their wrong doings on the cyber space which may affect lives of others in real life. But major problem lies in the jurisdictional issues. Netizens are ubiquitous especially. Netizen from one geographic region may reach out to other netizens situated another geo location. Initiating criminal proceedings against netizens in such cross border criminal cases becomes a huge problem for the criminal justice machinery especially in the absence of treaties to extradite offenders. The international laws and rules also play a major role in charging netizens for offences which may not be considered as indictable offence in the country where the netizen is residing and operating from.
It is expected that the international organizations and States must come together for working towards creation of universal rules for regulating the activities of netizens. This may help all to live and be remembered in a wonderful cyber space.
Please do not violate the copyright of this writeup. Please cite it as Halder Debarati (2020) ‘Netizens’. Published @https://wordpress.com/posts/internetlegalstudies.com on November 3rd, 2020