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Laws relating to the dark web in India

September 13, 2021
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data theft

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This article is written by Surbhi Jindal, a law student at Dr B.R. Ambedkar National Law University, Sonipat, Haryana. The article attempts to discuss the legal aspects relating to the dark web in India.   

Introduction

Imagine that on one fine day, you find yourself in an urgent need of money. You are ready to do anything to gain that money, even if it is much more complicated. You ask for help from your friend. Your friend knows that you are an expert in data hacking. He doesn’t lend you the money but suggests you use the dark web. He explains how he can earn money by doing what he knows on the dark web. 

You are convinced of the idea of earning money this way, but on your part, you want to know what exactly the dark web is? You are even desirous to know whether accessing the dark web is legal in India and what are the laws regulating the dark web? Of course, you want to save yourself from future problematic hassles and at the same time earn money. 

Now, you are surfing on the net, finding answers to various questions that are popping in your mind. Don’t you think you require help to make an informed decision? Don’t worry; I am here to help you out. This article attempts to answer the legal aspect relating to the dark web in India. When using the dark web is illegal, what are the ways to regulate the use in India? But before you move forward, there are some exciting stats made available on tech Jury’s blog. We will discuss them in the next part of the article.

What is the dark web?

The dark web is a small part of the deep web. Both are different from the surface web. Let us understand this by an example. 

You see an iceberg floating on the ocean. The above portion that you can see above the water is called the surface web. The surface web is easily accessible to all on the internet. These are the websites or search engines that are open to all. Examples of Surface web include Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. The surface web is almost 4% of the whole internet.

When you dive into the water, you will see the portion just below the water and above the deepest iceberg, i.e., in the middle of that whole iceberg. The middle part is known as the deep web. Deep webs are not easily accessible on the search engines since Google does not index these sites. It would be best to browse explicitly and have a unique username/id and password to access that particular website. Examples of deep web include Manupatra, LexisNexis, bank details, etc. 

At the bottom of the iceberg exists the dark web with which our article is mainly concerned with. The dark web is that part of internet search that is not easily accessible through the traditional searches like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc. While you use the dark web, a high degree of anonymity is provided. It is accessible through platforms such as The Onion Ring (TOR) and 12P, generally operated by public organizations.  

In TOR, the data is encrypted like the layers in an onion. This encryption keeps the privacy of the users safe. The dark web is a part of the deep web where both illegal and legal activities are conducted. Due to the high degree of anonymity and inability to trace the person’s IP address, it remains the central place for the criminals to promote their illegal activities such as drug trafficking, dealing in the trade of pistols, guns, firearms, etc. 

What do the statistics say on the usage of the dark web in India?

Category Group 

Percentage of users using the dark web 

18-25 

35.9% 

26-35 

34.8%

36-45

16.8% 

46-55

8.8%

56-65

3.1%

Above 65’s 

0.6% 

Legality of accessing the dark web in India

Yes, accessing the dark web is legal in India. There is nothing that can stop you from using it. Above we understood about the dark web and its functioning. After that, we understood how accessing the dark web is considered to be legal in India. 

Often there is a misconception that the dark web can be used only for criminal activities. That is true, but partially. The dark web has many advantages as well. People use the dark web to read books, gain information, have private chats that they do not want other people to have access to, and even for legitimate purposes by the activists, journalists, and other government agencies to trace the crime. 

But the question arises: if illegal activities like drug trafficking, child pornography takes place, then why isn’t this banned, and why is it considered legal in India to access the website?

Reasons behind the legal status of the dark web in India

Accessing the dark web is legal in India. The Indian government does not recognize it as an illegal activity, because it is just another part of the internet that you are surfing, through TOR, Freenet, etc. However, this doesn’t mean you are free to do whatever you want. You should undoubtedly maintain a few limits while using the dark web.

One should remember if you decide to jump into the world of the dark web, be sure that one wrong click can put your life at stake. Most of the shadiest crimes occur on the dark web, and there exists an excellent line of difference between what is legal and what is illegal while you use the dark web.

Has the dark web aided the law and its enforcement agencies?

Also, our Indian Constitution gives us the Right to access the Internet under Article 21. The court essentially included that this right is the basic infrastructure of freedom of speech and expression. Due to this, we cannot stop a person from accessing the website since it would result in the deprivation of their Freedom of speech and expression. 

Since we know that accessing the dark web is legal in India, it poses specific challenges for law enforcement agencies. Apart from this, India does not have stringent laws to govern cyberspace in India. With a lot of loopholes prevailing in the laws of our country, the dark web brings in specific unique challenges. We have only six sections in the Information Technology Act, 2000, relating to cybercrimes in India. 

People have a habit of clicking on the links that they come across while surfing on the internet. But the dark web isn’t a thing to be used carelessly. One single click can land you in jail. An article by the Indian Express explains how five students from Mumbai were caught while they were dealing in the purchase of drugs through the medium of the dark web. These five students had procured 1,400 LSD dots priced at 70 lakhs. 

A US friend, a dark web syndicate member, had placed an order with a cartel from a western European country on their behalf. He gave the address of Mumbai, where the LSD dots were delivered. These five students were arrested after the parcels were delivered because, according to Mumbai DCP (Anti Narcotics Cell) Shivdeep Lande, making an arrest is a difficult task due to the complex structure of the dark web version. Also, features of anonymity are offered to a great extent, making it difficult to trace the criminals. 

The dark web originated in the mid-1990s by the United States Naval Research laboratory employees to protect US intelligence communications. Though developed with a bonafide intention, it, in the latter part, became a place for criminals to shoot their ill-minded activities. 

When is the dark web considered to be illegal in India?

Indeed, till now, you’ve got it that the dark web is not illegal, but it is also not an entirely legal entity. Various activities can land you in jail, like child pornography, buying guns, pistols, rifles, drugs, etc. 

I would illustrate this with a simple analogy. First of all, understand, the dark web is not illegal. Still, you can land up in jail. It is the activity or the intent of a person that is taken into account while using the dark web. It only decides whether you will land up in some legal hassles or you are free to use it without facing any problematic issues. 

Now, the analogy goes like this. If you keep a licensed gun with you at your home, that’s not illegal. But if you, with the same weapon, shoot someone, that is illegal. You will be charged under either Section 307 or Section 324 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860.  

Similarly, the legality of the dark web depends upon its use by you. If you do illegal things, you commit unlawful activity. And no law in India will protect you from the sins that you committed. For instance, you indulge yourselves in promoting or watching child pornography. Are you thinking of saving yourself from this? But sorry, you are not going to be saved. This is a crime in India, hence in this sense, over here, the dark web is illegal. 

You aren’t even allowed to facilitate the trade of drugs, guns, pistols, etc., because this is illegal. You need to understand that there exists a fine line of difference between ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ while using the dark web. Sometimes, people cross the limit of revolving around legal activities. They even do not notice how and what a blunder they have committed. So, one needs to be very careful while using the dark web in any part of the world. 

Therefore, after concluding what is legal and illegal while using the dark web, let’s have some legal knowledge and look at the sections to know what section you will be charged for committing various illicit activities. 

What is considered to be illegal while using the dark web? 

Way ahead to curb illegal activities on the dark web

We cannot deny the fact that India lacks stringent laws. Also, while some of them exist, the problem remains in the enforcement. A comprehensive legislative policy needs to be adopted. Because this is the only way to keep track of illegal activities, while it is not certainly easy to control the activities of citizens, India can control the access to the dark web by its citizens.

India has yet to go through rigorous hard work to control the activities of people. Presently, India does not have any law specifically dedicated to maintaining the use of VPNs. Here is what other countries have done. 

Similarly, it is suggested that India should implement such a system where these freely available VPNs are banned. CyberBlogIndia, in its blog, indicates that the government should create an authority under Chapter-VI of the Information Technology Act, 2000 where the government may create a mandatory charge for VPN registration.

In an article by Indian Express, we got to know the opinions of two cyber law experts:

Conclusion 

Here we come to the end of this article. Now we can safely conclude that accessing the dark web is not at all illegal in India. But if you conduct illegal activities through the medium of the dark web, then that is certainly illegal. 

India needs strong cyber laws and provisions in the Indian Penal Code, 1860. Apart from this, an exclusive legislation is demanded to curb the menace of increasing crimes that pose threat to Indian democracy.

I hope that now you have certainly got knowledge relating to access to the dark web in India. Now you probably won’t go and access the dark web if you want to live an easy life without any problematic hassles from the world of the dark web. 

References


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