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BANGALORE, Feb 18: A teenage girl from Bandra recently received a flurry of obscene calls and emails. Investigations revealed that the person responsible was a boy she had turned down.

Sometime before that, a 25-year old woman, also from Mumbai, was questioned by her boss after he received lewd emails about her. She later found they were sent by her ex-husband.

In another case, a boy was sent offensive photographs - anonymously - of his fiancée.

Three frightening incidents illustrate an even scarier reality .

Statistics show, and law enforcers confirm, that the maximum number of cyber crimes related to obscenity occurred in Mumbai last year. There were at least 40 cases in 2006 (of which only ten were registered), a steep rise from only five cases in 2005.

Delhi was close behind, with 30 obscenity-related cases (nine registered), but topped in cases of hacking. Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad and Pune reported only a handful of obscene crimes but saw a greater incidence of hacking.

Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime) Meeran Borwankar attributed the cases to personal rivalry and animosities. “The victims are mostly young girls, and this is how
jilted boys vent their frustration,” she said.

“The victims and tormentors are pretty new to the perils of  the internet and friendship sites are often the common platform,” added Delhi-based Supreme Court advocate and cyber law consultant Pawan Duggal.

The more common method used by men is to email vulgar photographs of themselves to women, praising their beauty, and asking them for a date or inquiring how much they charge for ‘services’.

Besides sending explicit messages via e-mail, SMS and chat, many also morph photographs - placing the victim’s face on another, usually nude, body. 

In another instance, a couple entered an internet chat room agreeing to strip for each other using a web camera.

“The guy stripped, but the person at the other end was actually another man and his friends, who obviously didn’t. They recorded it and uploaded the clip on a porno website,” said Duggal.

“These things happen in every city but only one in every 500 cases is reported,” added Duggal. According to Borwankar, most cases go unreported because people are “petrified of adverse publicity”.

She added that it was tough to track down cyber criminals because most of the crimes were committed in cyber cafes, which do not keep a log of their users as required by law.

While Mumbai is battling obscenity, other cities are concerned about hacking. While Delhi reported 67 cases last year, there were 30 in Bangalore. “These are usually credit card frauds,” said Sanjay Vir Singh, former inspector-general of police (economic offences), Karnataka.

“And it is going to increase in the coming years,” said Duggal. “Till now, offences registered under the IT Act 2000 were non-bailable. But the present draft to amend the act asks for lighter punishments. This will only encourage offenders,” he added.
Crime and punishment

Section 67 of the IT Act 2000 says that any person publishing or sending obscene pictures or messages in electronic form is punishable on first conviction with imprisonment up to five years and fined up to Rs one lakh.

In the event of a subsequent conviction, the term may extend to 10 years and the fine Rs two lakh.


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