The Delhi and Mumbai police have filed a first information report against an online application that allegedly put up doctored photographs of Muslim women to harass and insult them through an auction, Bar and Bench reported.
They have filed the FIR under Indian Penal Code sections 153A (promoting enmity between groups based on religion), 153B (assertions that damage national integrity), 354A (punishment for sexual harassment) and 509 (insult to modesty of a woman).
Additionally, the Mumbai Police have also invoked Indian Penal Code sections 295A (malicious acts intended to outage religious feelings) and 500 (defamation) and Section 67 (punishment for publishing lewd content) of the Information Technology Act.
Maharashtra Information and Technology Minister Satej Patil had said on Saturday that an FIR was being lodged in the matter. He said that the Maharashtra Cyber Police and Mumbai Cyber Cell have started an inquiry into the case.
“Digital platforms like these are rife with misogyny and communal hatred aimed at women,” he said on Twitter. “This is very disturbing and shameful.”
The application has been condemned by social media users. This is the second time in a span of a year that such an app has been created.
In July, an app called “Sulli deals” had posted hundreds of images of Muslim women for “online auction”. “Sulli” is a derogatory term used to refer to Muslim women.
The new app, named “Bulli Bai”, reportedly works in a similar way as “Sulli Deals”, reported NDTV. Muslim women with a number of followers on Twitter have been targeted on the both the apps, which were uploaded on repository hosting service GitHub.
A complaint was filed on Saturday by Delhi-based journalist Ismat Ara, who posted a screenshot of the website bulli.github.io that had put up her photograph.
“It is very sad that as a Muslim woman you have to start your new year with this sense of fear and disgust,” she said. “Of course it goes without saying that I am not the only one being targeted in this new version of #sullideals.”
In her complaint, the journalist said that bulli.github.io had posted a doctored photograph of her “in an improper, unacceptable and clearly lewd context”. “I am often the target of online trolls and this seems to be the next step in such harassment,” she said.
The journalist said that “offences of sexual harassment under sections 354A(iv) [making sexually coloured remarks], 506 [criminal intimidation], 509 [words or gestures intended to sexually harass women] of the Indian Penal Code and Sections 66 [damaging computer data] and 67 [transmitting obscene material] of the Information Technology Act” had been clearly committed.
Ara demanded that a first information report should be filed under these provisions.
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi condemned the incident in a tweet. “Humiliation of women and communal hatred will only stop when we raise our voice against them unitedly,” he said.
Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said that she had written to the information technology minister in July, when “sulli deals” had posted the images of Muslim women. She claimed that she received a response in November, in which it was said that the sites were blocked.
“But action needs to be taken on people who make these sites,” she said. “Since no action was taken, we again saw an example of such a site on January 1.”
Meanwhile, Union Information Technology Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that GitHub had blocked the portal on Saturday morning. He added that the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team and the police are “coordinating further action”.
Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi said on Saturday that she had spoken with the Mumbai Police commissioner and the Maharashtra director general of police about investigating the matter. “Hoping those behind such misogynistic and sexist sites are apprehended,” she said.
Several Opposition leaders condemned the harassment of Muslim women and demanded action in the matter.
All India Ittehadul Muslimeen chief Asaduddin Owaisi said the app was “disgusting” and alleged that “inaction by authorities has made these criminals brazen”.
The Network of Women in Media described the matter as “shocking and totally condemnable”. The organisation noted that it had sought action against the creators of the Sulli deals app.
“This impunity continues to fester, giving rise to more of such vile apps,” the organisation said.
In July, a first information report was lodged based on a complaint received on the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal against the app, the Delhi Police Cyber Cell had said. However, the police have not made any arrests yet in the “Sulli deals” case, according to The Indian Express.