online crime against women
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This article has been written by Aditi Shrivastava, pursuing the diploma course in Cyber Law, FinTech Regulations and Technology Contracts at LawSikho.

Introduction

Code of Criminal Procedure deals with the procedure of criminal cases i.e., how a criminal complaint or FIR can be filed against the accused and further, it provides the procedure of criminal trial and disposal of a criminal case. Similarly, Code of Civil Procedure deals with the procedure of civil suits i.e., how the plaintiff can initiate the proceedings by filing a plaint in the civil court and how the defendant can file the written statement in reply to the plaintiff. 

Further, it provides the procedure of entire civil proceeding and disposal of the civil suit. But how does the victim of cybercrime initiate the trial against the accused? Does he/she need to go to the police station or there is any other authority to admit the complaint of the victim? And whether there is any online portal to file a cyber crime complaint or the procedure of filing the complaint is totally offline? This article answers these questions and some other questions related to cybercrimes in India. In order to understand the entire procedure of filing a cybercrime complaint, we need to be acquainted with “what are cybercrimes?” and “how it is committed?”. 

To know more about the virtual reality of cyber stalking in India in brief, please refer to the video below:

How a crime becomes a cybercrime

Extortion, theft, sexual assault and harassment, blackmailing, stalking, terrorism, defamation, crimes related to obscenity, forgery etc. are some regular crimes punishable under Indian Penal Code.

Extortion is intentionally putting any person in fear of some injury and inducing him to deliver any property or valuable security, theft is dishonestly taking away of a movable property out of the possession of the owner, sexual assault is use of criminal force against any woman with the intention to outrage her modesty,  stalking is following, contacting or attempting to contact any woman, despite her clear indication of disinterest, in order to establish personal interaction, forgery is making of a false document with the intention to cause damage or injury to any person or to commit any fraud, crimes related to obscenity are sale, distribution or circulation of any obscene books, pamphlets, drawings, paintings, etc, doing of any obscene act or reciting any obscene song in public, and defamation is speaking or writing in words or making any signs or visible representations and publishing the same with the intention to cause harm to any person’s reputation.

Now, let’s consider some scenarios where these crimes are committed with the use of internet, computer, mobile phones, computer network or any other electronic device: 

  • Cyber defamation & cyber bullying: Publishing defamatory statements against the CM of any state on social media platforms like Facebook or twitter.
  • Cyber bullying: Posting obscene pictures of a woman on social media or blackmailing her with her private pictures with the intention to obtain sexual favors, sending her rape threats via text messages.
  • Taking obscene pictures and videos of any woman engaged in private activities with the use of mobile phone or camera.
  •  Cyber stalking: Sending messages to any woman on social media and calling her on her mobile phone despite her clear ignorance.
  • Selling pornography, obscene pictures and videos through online platform. 
  • Cyber theft: Stealing personal data, financial information or business/corporate data of any person or company from their computer systems.  
  •  Cyber Fraud: Attaching a fake electronic signature to an electronic contract.
  • Making a false electronic document to produce it as evidence against the accused in the court of law. 
  • Deceiving the customers with damaged products on e-commerce platforms (Amazon, OLX India, Flipkart) and inducing them to make online payments for those products. 
  • Hacking: Hacking someone’s mobile phone or laptop with the intention to steal the data or damage the data stored in the device. 
  • Phishing: Sending fake messages or emails with a link to a particular webpage to induce the victims to unwittingly enter personal data (contact details, bank account details, and passwords, etc) or with the intention to install harmful viruses in the devices of the victims as soon as they open the link. 
  • Hacking & cyber bullying: Hacking someone’s social media account to make fake posts on their behalf. 
  • Cyber terrorism & cyberextortion: Hacking someone’s computer to encrypt all the data and files stored in the computer and demanding ransom to decrypt them. 

In the above-mentioned scenarios, there has been a use of technology i.e., electronic devices (computer or computer network or mobile phones) and internet (social media, e-commerce websites, fraudulent web pages and emails, etc.). There can be many other examples of cybercrimes. The term ‘cyber’ covers everything related to computers, computer network, computer devices, software, internet, emails, websites, data storage devices and other electronic devices (mobile phones, ATM machines, etc.). Therefore, when a crime is committed with the use of or with the involvement of a computer, computer network, internet or any other internet service or electronic device, it is said to be a cybercrime.

How to file a cyber crime complaint

The cybercrime complaints can be registered with the cybercrime cells. The process of filing the complaint is both online and offline, and the victim can choose the procedure according to his/her convenience. It is not necessary for the victim to register the complaint in the cybercrime cell of the city in which he or she is residing or where the crime was committed because the cybercrime comes under the purview of global jurisdiction i.e., the cybercrime complaint can be registered with any of the cybercrime cells established in India. Cybercrime cells have been established in various cities of India to make it convenient for the people to get proper assistance in case of any injury or damage arising due to any cybercrime committed against them. These cells have also been generating awareness about the cybercrimes and measures to avoid being a victim to such crimes. Cybercrime cells maintain reports of cybercrimes and also take care of investigations.

In case the victim does not have access to any of the cybercrime cells, he or she can lodge the FIR at the local police station under Section 154 of Code of Criminal Procedure. If the cybercrime committed against the victim is a cognizable offence under Indian Penal Code, then it would be obligatory for the police officer to lodge the FIR. If the police officer refuses to file the complaint of the victim, the victim can make the written complaint to the Judicial Magistrate of his/her district who in turn can direct the police officer to commence the investigation.  The documents required for filing an FIR of a cybercrime depends upon the type of cybercrime committed against the victim (Social Media Crime, Cyber Bullying, Mobile Application Crime, Cyber Extortion, etc.).

Procedure for filing cybercrime complaint: offline cyber crime cell 

Making a written complaint to the cybercrime cell has been proved to be the most acceptable way of registering the crime as there are people who still cannot afford the charges of the internet or who do not have required knowledge. The victim of a cybercrime can file a written complaint in the nearest cybercrime cell or in any cybercrime cell established in India. The written complaint shall be addressed to the Head of the Cybercrime Cell and shall be accompanied with the following information of the victim or person registering the complaint:

  • Name,
  • Contact details, and
  • Mailing address. 

Other documents which are required to be attached with the complaint depends upon the type of cybercrime committed against the victim. It is necessary to attach these documents with the offline as well as with the online complaint. 

Procedure for filing cybercrime complaint: National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal 

Since the technology has been overstepping every conventional method, it has also overstepped the offline process of filing the cybercrime complaint. The cybercrime complaints can be registered on National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal which is the initiative of the Government of India to facilitate the nation-wide cybercrime complaints and to make it feasible for the victims/complainants to have access to the cybercrime cells and to all the information related to cybercrimes at their fingertips. National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal is one of the components of Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre established by the Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India and deals with all types of cybercrimes. There are two types of complaint that can be registered on the portal: 

Report Crime related to Women or Children

  • Child Pornography (CP)
  • Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM)- Material containing sexually explicit images (in any form) of a child who is abused or exploited
  • Sexually explicit content (such as Rape/Gangrape)

Report Other Cybercrimes

  • Mobile crimes
  • Social Media crimes
  • Online financial frauds
  • Cyber trafficking
  • Ransomware
  • Hacking

Procedure for reporting the cybercrime related to women or children

If the victim/complainant reports the crime related to women or children, he/she will have two ways to register the complaint

Report Anonymously

In order to register a cybercrime complaint anonymously, the victim/complainant shall follow the following steps:

  • Visit the website of National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal at https://cybercrime.gov.in/
  • The complainant will not have to provide any personal information and the complaint will be registered anonymously. 
  • The cybercrime related to Child Pornography (CP), Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), Sexually explicit content such as Rape/Gang Rape (RGR) can only be reported anonymously.
  • While reporting the cybercrime (relating to women or children) on the portal, the complainant will have to provide following information only-

Incidental details

  • Category of the cybercrime
  • Date and time of the incident (e.g., when the sexually abusive video was uploaded on social media)
  • State and district: where the victim is residing or where the crime was committed
  • Platform where the incident occurred (WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
  • Upload evidence: images, videos, documents or link to CP/RGR content.

Suspect’s details

  • Suspect name
  • Suspect’s identity (Email, driving license, mobile number, PAN Card, etc.)

The complainant can also add other necessary details related to the complaint or which he/she might think would be helpful in the investigation of the crime in the description column. There are certain other documents and information which shall be uploaded as evidence. Other documents which are required to be attached with the complaint depends upon the type of cybercrime committed against the victim. Once the complaint is successfully registered, the complainant will be provided with the PDF of his/her complaint which he can download from the portal.

Report and track

The victim/complainant of a cybercrime related woman or children can also report the crime by providing their legit information and can track the status of the complaint by logging in through his/her complaint ID. The complainant will get a timely update of all the investigation and actions taken by the police officers on his/her registered mobile number and email ID. It is recommended that the complainant should report the crime through the “Report and Track” option because it would be helpful for the law enforcement agencies to contact him/her for further details or during the process of investigation. In order to report a cybercrime under “Report & Track” option, the complainant/victim shall follow the following steps:

  • Visit the website of National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal at https://cybercrime.gov.in/ 
  • The complainant shall choose the option of “Report and Track” while initiating the registration of complaint on the portal and register himself/herself with the use of his/her name and valid Indian mobile number. An OTP (One Time Password) will be sent to the mobile number provided by the complainant which will be valid for 30 mins. After entering the OTP, the complainant will be successfully registered and can proceed with the complaint. 
  • Once the complainant is successfully registered, he/she will have to choose the category and sub-category of complaint (CP/RGR/Sexually Explicit Content) and will have to provide the following details:

Incident details 

  • Date and Time of the incident (e.g., when the sexually abusive video was uploaded on social media)
  • Platform where the incident occurred (WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
  • Upload Evidence: images, videos, documents or link to CP/RGR content.

Suspect’s details

  • Suspect Name
  • Suspect’s Identity (Email, Driving License, Mobile Number, PAN Card, etc.)
  • Suspect’s Address

Complainant’s details

  • Gender and Date of Birth
  • Father/Mother/Spouse Name
  • Relationship of the Complainant with the victim
  • Email ID (for further communication during investigation)
  • Victim’s National ID (Driving License/PAN Card/Voter ID)
  • Complainant’s address.

The complainant can also add other necessary details related to the complaint or which he/she might think would be helpful in the investigation of the crime in the description column. There are certain other documents and information which shall be uploaded as evidence. Other documents which are required to be attached with the complaint depends upon the type of cybercrime committed against the victim.

Once the complaint is successfully registered, the complainant will be provided with a Complaint ID through which he/she can track the status of the complaint. The same will be sent to the complainant’s registered mobile number and email address. Also, a PDF of the complaint will be generated on the portal.

Procedure for reporting other cybercrimes

In order to register an online complaint of a cybercrime on National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal, the victim/complainant shall follow the following steps:

  • Visit the website of National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal at https://cybercrime.gov.in/  
  • The complainant shall initiate the filing of the cybercrime on the portal by registering himself/herself with the use of his/her name and valid Indian mobile number. An OTP (One Time Password) will be sent to the mobile number provided by the complainant which will be valid for 30 mins. After entering the OTP, the complainant will be successfully registered and can proceed with the complaint. 
  • Once the complainant is successfully registered, he/she will have to choose the category and sub-category of complaint and provide the following information with regard to the alleged cybercrime:

Incidental details

  • Mode of communication (Email, WhatsApp, Website, etc.)
  • Date & time of the incident
  • Platform where the incident occurred (Twitter, Tik Tok, Website URL, etc.)
  • Upload evidence (if any)
  • Other additional information related to the incident. 

Suspect details

  • Suspect name
  • Suspect’s identity (Email, Driving License, Mobile Number, PAN Card, etc.)
  • Suspect’s address

Complainant’s details

  • Father/mother/spouse name
  • Relationship of the complainant with the victim
  • Email ID (for further communication during investigation)
  • Victim’s National ID (Driving License/PAN Card/Voter ID)
  • Complainant’s address.

After filling the above-mentioned details, the complainant will have to submit the complaint by acknowledging the information provided by him/her. 

Once the complaint is successfully registered, the complainant will be provided with the PDF of his/her complaint which he can download from the portal and will also receive an email and a message on his/her registered email address and mobile number respectively.

Conclusion

The procedure of filing the cybercrime complaint has been divided into two categories- 1. Offline Procedure (Registering the complaint at Cyber Crime Cell) and 2. Online Procedure (Registering the complaint on National Cybercrime Reporting Portal). 

Offline procedure i.e., reporting the cybercrime at cybercrime cell requires the victim/complainant to file a written complaint to the head of the cybercrime cell. The complainant can file the complaint at any cybercrime cell in India because cybercrime comes under the purview of global jurisdiction. The offline procedure is convenient for people with less internet resources.

Online procedure i.e., reporting the cybercrime on National Cyber Crime Reporting Portal has options for registering the crime under two different categories i.e., (1) Cybercrime related to women and children and (2) Other cybercrimes. Moreover, it allows the victim/complainant of Child Pornography, Child Sexual Abuse Material and Sexually Explicit Content (Rape/Gang Rape) to report the crime anonymously. It also allows the complainant to track the status of his/her complaint under the “Report and Track” option. The complainant is required to fill the details relating to the incident that took place, suspect of crime committed and details of the complainant (except under “Report Anonymously” option). The complainant also gets a copy of complaint filed by him/her on the portal. On successful registration of complaint, a PDF of the complaint is generated which can be downloaded from the portal. 

In case, the victim does not have access to internet services or any of the cybercrime cells in India, he/she can file an FIR at a local police station.


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