The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued a slew of directions to the Union government, the city police and social media intermediaries to remove non-consensual intimate images of individuals from the internet, reported Live Law.

Observing that the “internet never forgets,” Justice Subramonium Prasad said when such illegal content is uploaded online, it become difficult to control its dissemination.

The High Court is hearing a petition filed by a woman seeking to block some websites from showing her intimate photos, reported Bar and Bench. She has also sought directions to the police to file a first information report in the matter.

In her petition, the woman said that a man identified as Richesh Manav Singhal had befriended her on social media. She alleged that in July 2020, Singhal came to her home and “forced himself upon her”. She further alleged that he clicked explicit pictures of her and also transferred her intimate photos from her phone to himself.

In its order on Wednesday, the court noted that its directions are important to ensure that such incidents are dealt with in a manner that minimises trauma caused to the victim and complaints are resolved swiftly.

He said that as internet access to the world has increased, the spread of unlawful content can be done with ease and without the accused person getting identified quickly. “As our virtual identities steadily gain more importance and space, the immortality of the internet raises questions on its impact on one’s right to privacy and right to be forgotten,” the judge said.

Court directions

The court directed that the party demanding taking down such content from the internet should file an affidavit in a sealed cover identifying the audio, visuals or keywords that they want removed as well as provide the links for the illegal content, reported Live Law.

The court said that grievance officer handling the content must be appropriately sensitised about the abuse of non-consensual intimate images.

It also directed that the National Cybercrime Reporting Portal must have a status tracker for the complainant, beginning from the filing of the complaint to removal of the offending material.

“The portal must specifically display the various redressal mechanisms that can be accessed by the victim in cases of NCII [non-consensual intimate images] dissemination,” the court ordered.

It directed the Delhi Police to immediately register a formal complaint to start an investigation and “bring the perpetrators to book” as soon as possible.

“The intermediaries are directed to cooperate unconditionally as well as expeditiously respond to Delhi Police, and thereafter follow the time schedules under the IT Rules,” it said.

It also directed that a trusted third-party encrypted platform may be developed by the government in collaboration with various search engines for registering the offending content or communication link by the victim.