Is Sexting a Crime in India? has been searched alot on Google by Indians. Sending sexual messages, photos, GIFs, videos or even emojis to someone else via texting apps is called Sexting.
Sexting is known as the sharing of sexually explicit images and videos through the internet or via electronic devices such as smart phones.
According to an analysis of studies by JAMA Pediatrics, as many as one in seven teens, or about 15 percent, are sending sexually explicit text messages, while one in four teens (25 percent) have reported receiving sexts.
There is a growing concern for sexting, cyber bullying, terror recruiting, revenge porn and sextortion among Indian users as internet penetration shows an increase day by day.
The study noted that 77 per cent Indians reported behavioural concerns like cyber bullying, trolling, online harassment, sexual solicitation, sexting, revenge porn or sextortion.
To control these issues, the legislature has passed following Acts i.e. The Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000 and The Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO Act) Act, 2012 wherein punishments and legal actions has been clearly defined.
The Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000
Section 66E: Punishment for violation of privacy
This section covers the transmission of images of “a private area of any person without his or her consent”. The punishment for the same is imprisonment for three years or with fine not exceeding two lakh rupees, or with both.
This section is extremely important as Right to Privacy has been recently held to be guaranteed as a fundamental right and protected under the Right to Life in Part III of the Constitution of India. Sharing of any content that would be a breach to the privacy of a person, therefore, would also be violating Article 21 of the Constitution of India.
Section 67: Punishment for publishing or transmitting obscene material in elect form
This section deals with the publishing or transmitting of obscene material (described as “any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons”).
The punishment on first conviction is imprisonment upto three years and with fine of five lakh rupees, and subsequent convictions to be punished with imprisonment upto five years and fine which may extend to ten lakh rupees.
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Section 67A: Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing the sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form
This section punishes publishing or transmitting of material that contains sexually explicit act or conduct. The punishment on first conviction is imprisonment upto five years and fine upto ten lakhs. Since the Bois Locker Room incident involved sharing of morphed images of girls, the present section is applicable.
Section 67B: Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material depicting children in sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form
The present section on first conviction provides punishment of imprisonment upto five years with fine upto ten lakhs.
This section covers not just the depiction of children in sexual acts or conduct, but the creation or distribution of any digital text or images that depicts children “in obscene or indecent or sexually explicit manner”.
It is pertinent to note that the present incident involves sharing of obscene or private images of minor girls. Therefore, the present section can also be a recourse. Further, many of the comments and discussions also might fall within the ambit of this section.
Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012
Section 14 and 15: Child pornography
Under section 14(1): The use of a child or children for pornographic purposes is punishable with imprisonment upto five years along with fine. Further, under section 15 storage of pornographic material involving a child with the intention of distributing it is punishable by imprisonment of upto three years or with fine or both.
ADVOCATE Prem Joshi
Founder, Joshi Law Associates (JLA)
Practice in Delhi High Court & District Courts