Law enforcement agencies’ failure to curb cyber crimes against children!
UNICEF’s report titled “Child Online Protection in India” has stated cyber crimes against children are under-reported and not included in the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) statistics as a separate category. It has raised wide scale public concerns against the inability of the law enforcement agencies (police) in implementing Section 67B of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012. Section 67B of the IT Act prohibits publishing and transmitting of material depicting children in sexually explicit act, etc. in electronic form. Sections 14 & 15 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 prohibit child pornography.
All India data, as available at present, on cyber crimes under Section 67B of the IT Act indicate five cases in 2014 in States and nil report in Union Territories. During 2015, eight cases in States and nil report are revealed. Cases of pornography of children under Sections 14 and 15 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act, 2012 reveal 40 all India cases with Union Territories reporting nil in 2014, and 94 all India such cases with Union Territories reporting nil in 2015. The latest data available indicate poor enforcement of deterrence under these two acts in the country.
It’s a matter of anguish there are severe under-reporting of crimes related to online child sex abuse in India. Firstly, NCRB does not maintain any separate record of cyber crimes against children. Secondly, whatever data is collected by NCRB presently, however rudimentary it may be, provides insight into the law enforcement in the country as it is unbelievable that in most of the States and all Union Territories there is no incident of online child sex abuse. Data indicates extremely poor law enforcement in relation to these crimes as it only collects information of reported cases. This fails to provide reflection of true prevalence of such crimes as it does not capture the actual number of incidents on the ground.
An inquiry in the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) revealed that NCRB collects aggregated statistics on police registered cases on crimes and criminals from State Crime Records Bureau of all States and Union Territories in a prescribed format on annual basis. The Bureau does not record online child sex abuse separately. However, after implementation of Crime & Criminal Tracking Network System (CCTNS) fully throughout the country, it will be possible to maintain such data at national level. From this year (2017) itself, NCRB is learnt to be collating all the instances of online child sex abuse data and other cyber crimes against children under a separate category so that performance of law enforcement agencies in this regard could be assessed.
It is common knowledge that child sexual abuse and related crimes remain overwhelmingly under-reported in India on account of associated stigma and propensity of parents or guardians not to involve police in such matters. The way out in this matter is process of reporting child sex crimes be simplified and identity of children involved protected to ensure such crimes do not go unreported. Other way forward envisages the MHA to enhance police capacity , strengthen cyber forensic agencies, simplify and strengthen cyber crime investigations involving children.
All States and Union Territories are required to create Online Cyber Crime Reporting Platform under the Cyber Crime Prevention against Women and Children Scheme, which the Government of India has taken up for implementation from the current fiscal 2017-18, utilizing the Nirbhaya Funds. Simultaneously, it should be well publicized on diverse media to create public awareness to encourage parents to come forward to report such crimes to the police. This scheme needs to be equipped with adequate funds from the MHA and should form part of the Modernisation of Police Forces Scheme.
If the online child sex crime is not checked effectively at the earliest, it will impact adversely the future of India and its human resource development for all round development of the nation!