The Supreme Court on Monday sought response from internet majors Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and Facebook on a plea seeking curbs on sharing of sexual offence videos on social networking sites and steps to check cybercrimes.
A bench of justices M B Lokur and U U Lalit issued notice to these companies and sought their reply on the plea by January 9.
Advocate Aparna Bhatt, appearing for petitioner NGO Prajwala, said that rape videos are shot and posted on the social networking sites and the internet companies should take steps to curb such cybercrime.
Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, representing the Centre, detailed the steps taken by Union home ministry and CBI which is the nodal agency for cybercrimes.
He said that the debate over making public the names of sexual offenders is on in India and abroad and whatever decision is taken in this regard will be implemented.
To this, the bench said that if the names of sexual offenders are to be made public then it should be done only after the conviction in the offence, not just after the case is lodged.
"It will tarnish the image of a person, if he is acquitted in the sexual offence case," it said.
The bench also directed that if the state police finds nothing against a person after probing a sexual offence case, then CBI will not interrogate that person with regard to the cybercrime aspect related to the offence.
"If the police give clean chit to Mr. X in a sexual offence case, then CBI should not say to Mr. X that we want to interrogate or examine you with regard to cybercrime aspect related with same sexual offence. This is because the police have found nothing against him with regard to the offence," it said.
It also directed the Centre to include steps to curb sexual violence against children in the list of measures to be taken for curbing crime against women.
"As per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data there is sharp rise in cases of sexual violence against children," it said.
The court was hearing a letter sent to then Chief Justice of India H L Dattu by Hyderabad-based NGO Prajwala along with two rape videos in a pen drive. It had taken suo motu note of the letter on the posting of these videos on 'WhatsApp' and had asked CBI to launch a probe forthwith to nab the culprits.
Earlier, the apex court had pulled up the government for failure to file its response in a case relating to the posting of rape videos on social networking sites like WhatsApp for 11 months.
CBI in its reply to the plea had said that “commiting such abhorrent crimes, recording them and disseminating them across the world through Internet-enabled media, serves to titillate and indirectly embolden other males to also commit such heinous crimes. These not only add to the misery of existing victims but also endanger and threaten the safety of other innocent women and children”.
The agency had said that difficulty with this particular class of cases involving sexual crimes against women that are recorded and then circulated through Internet-enabled media is that her trauma can continue almost endlessly until the sites are blocked and the perpetrators brought to justice.
It had also favoured the suggestion of the petitioner that an officer from CBI should be posted with the Internet service providers/social networking sites to facilitate and expedite the prevention, detection and prosecution of such crimes.
Earlier, the apex court had asked the information technology ministry to respond on how to block videos of rape cases, circulating on social network websites, under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act.
The ministry’s reply was sought after social activist Sunitha Krishnan had submitted that there should be a particular place where one could report the circulation of such rape videos and seek their blocking.
Krishnan, the co-founder of NGO Prajwala which is engaged in rescue and rehabilitation of victims of sex trafficking, said apart from the nine complaints which CBI was probing, she had another 90 cases but there was no single authority before whom she could lodge a complaint for blocking of such videos.
The apex court had earlier sought response of the Centre and the governments of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Delhi and Telangana.