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Millennium Post

Police probe in 'Sulli Deals' case hits a wall

New Delhi: Weeks into investigating a mobile application that allegedly "auctioned" Muslim women by uploading their pictures and personal informationon it, the Delhi Police are nowhere close to a lead, several officials aware of the probe have now told Millennium Post, adding that a key response from GitHub, the platform that hosted the application is holding their probe up.

A senior officer told Millennium Post that they have not received any kind of information from GitHub as of now, despite multiple appeals. Photographs of these women were uploaded by an unidentified group on an app called 'Sulli Deals' using GitHub. When asked whether a reminder was sent to GitHub, the official replied that they have sent a reminder but are yet to reply to queries on who was involved in creating the application. Once they give them the reply, the police investigation is expected to move along.

"We can further pursue with our probe after they give us the details about that person who created that profile on the platform," the official said.

On July 8, Delhi Police said that acting on a complaint received on the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal regarding the Sulli Deals mobile application, a case under section 354-A of IPC was registered by the Cyber Crime Unit on July 7. "As soon as the case was registered, a notice was sent to GitHub to share the relevant details," the official said.

But probing cases involving coordination with foreign internet companies, authorities here often face multiple challenges.

Several officers, who have earlier dealt with such cybercrime cases related to assaults on the privacy and online safety of women, told Millennium Post that websites that are based abroad take time to reply and in some cases, they have to resort to putting pressure through the Indian government's machinery.

"These websites sometimes claim that Indian laws are not applicable to them so they don't share details so we have to take a longer route which goes through different Ministries," the official said.

A second official said that most of the time, it is unrealistic to expect a prompt response from these companies. GitHub is headquartered in San Francisco, USA.

"We have seen this issue with foreign websites. In some cases, they will give all the details we want but there are websites which will only give a few details," the official said, adding that legal consultations often take up much of the time.

In some cases, these internet companies have also told police that the details might breach the privacy of their customers, thereby making a case for withholding the information sought.

One investigator said that people who have been involved in such cases often are motivated by the urge to take some kind of revenge. So, they put photographs of girls, women on the websites only to defame them. However, the far-reaching consequences on the lives of the victims are often long-lasting.

The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) had first taken suo motu cognisance of media reports of the case and directed the Delhi Police to take action, following which the criminal case was registered.

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