New Delhi, Nov. 21: The Supreme Court today pulled up the Centre for not being serious about handling the growing instances of Internet crimes of a sexual nature and sitting on its direction to set up a cyber crime coordination cell by November-end.
The court gave the government, which said the cell would be set up shortly, a week to file an affidavit complying with its December 2015 direction for an institutional mechanism.
It indicated that it might appoint the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) as a nodal agency to deal with crimes on the Internet.
A bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and U.U. Lalit passed the order while hearing a petition filed by an NGO, Prajwala, against the uploading of gang rape videos on WhatsApp last year.
“In a matter of public interest, you should have shown some seriousness. Why have you not brought the officers? Your officers are sitting in Parliament and we are sitting here doing nothing? What do you mean officers are busy?” the bench asked counsel R. Balasubramanyam, appearing for the Centre.
The counsel had sought time to file an affidavit on the status of the cyber crime coordination cell, saying all officers were busy with Parliament’s winter session. Last December, the court had asked the Centre to set up the national-level cell by November this year.
Balasubramanyam said the Centre was fully aware of the seriousness of crime against women and girls and was also contemplating a “national sex offenders list”.
“For this purpose (cyber cell), the Centre has allocated Rs 54 crore,” the counsel added.
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The court then asked the Centre to file an update on the scheme and decisions taken by the government since its December 2015 direction.
The bench also recorded the submission of counsel Aparna Bhat, appearing for the NGO, that the court should convert into an order certain suggestions of the CBI that it be made a nodal agency to deal with cyber crimes against women.
In October 2015, the CBI had offered to take up the task provided it was given the necessary infrastructure by the government.
The apex court had in February last year taken suo motu cognisance of a letter written to the Chief Justice of India by the NGO Prajwala – along with a pen drive containing two videos of the gang rape – seeking action against the culprits.
The CBI, in its 2015 affidavit, had said: “It is imperative in the interests of justice that there is a single central institutional mechanism to address cases relating to video recordings of incidents of sexual violence against unknown women and children that are circulated through the Internet by various offenders in the country.
“It is an absolute inalienable sovereign duty of the state to detect and prosecute crime. Rape and gang rape represent the oldest and longest continuing instance of a criminal man’s inhumanity on women.
“Committing such abhorrent crimes, recording them and disseminating them through Internet enabled media serves to titillate and indirectly embolden other males to also commit such heinous crimes.”
According to the CBI, a central institutional mechanism would enable the timely detection, investigation and prosecution of sexual crimes disseminated through social media, so that there is a powerful deterrent effect on those with a proclivity towards such crimes.
“The Central Bureau of Investigation is the only central law enforcement agency that investigates and prosecutes any heinous crime anywhere in the entire country.
“CBI has the highest institutional experience and expertise in international investigations. It is imperative in the interest of ensuring speedy detection and prosecution of the offenders that CBI officers of the rank of superintendent of police who have specialised training and skill in the investigation of cyber crime are posted with M/S Google, YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp…” the CBI had stated.