For the Uninitiated. What is Bois Locker Room?
A couple of days ago, a social media user exposed an Instagram group named ‘Bois Locker Room’. Multiple chat screenshots from the group surfaced as evidence on social media. The issue soon grabbed national headlines, and rightfully so. The leaked screenshots revealed what had been going on in the group, comprising of school going boys and college students. The conversations involved casual sex chat, sexual objectification of women, and slut shaming of minor girls. Apart from the conversations, the members of the group frequently circulated of obscene/ nude photographs of minor girls including morphed photographs..
However, the most horrendous part came to light when a screenshot showed boys of the group planning to gang rape a fellow school girl. Reports also claim that the boys added girls, whose pictures they were posting, in the group. If the girl protested, the boys would threaten her with gang rape! Even after the expose, boys from the group threatened to leak nude photos of the woman who outed them. Ignoring all the chaos created by the expose, the boys chose to deactivate the old group and create a new one. The administrator of the group also urged other members to use fake accounts to join the group.
Soon after the screenshots went viral, the Delhi Commission for Women took suo moto cognizance of the matter and directed the Delhi Police to register an FIR. As of now, the police have arrested one boy from the group. The boy has further identified many other group members and the interrogation is ongoing.
Scope of this article
The incident sparked debates across social media platforms. Chat screenshots of the whistle blower herself indulging in body shaming, demeaning sexual remarks, existence of ‘Girl Locker Rooms’, etc., have also surfaced. Amidst the war of words ongoing on social media, I would restrict this article to a discussion of the Sections which the Police, as reported, has invoked against the accused. The article would also discuss various Sections of the law which the Police seems to have overlooked. Altogether, I would try to give the reader a view of existing laws which can be used to punish an offender in cases like the ‘Bois Locker Room’.
Sections Invoked by the Police against the ‘Bois Locker Group’ Members
As per the media, the police have charged the offenders with the following sections:
- Section 465, IPC
- This Section penalises forgery.
- The Section can handle the issue of morphing of photographs .
- Punishment– Imprisonment up to two years, or fine, or both.
- Section 469, IPC
- This Section penalises forgery for the purpose of harming reputation. If the offender creates or shares any electronic document, record, or media with an intention to harm the reputation of any person, he would be liable under this Section.
- This Section can be applied as the group was body shaming and slut shaming girls.
- Punishment– Imprisonment up to three years, and also fine.
- Section 509, IPC
- Any person who, intending to insult the modesty of a woman, says any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen by such women, would be punished under this Section.
- The line of distinction in this Section is ‘intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object be seen by such women’. Since girls and women, whose photographs were posted in the group, were added to the group, this Section is aptly invoked.
- Punishment– Imprisonment up to three years, and also fine.
- Section 67, IT Act, 2000
- The Section penalises publication or transmission of any obscene material in electronic form, which appeals to the prurient interest of those who read, see, or hear the material.
- Obscene, abusive, sexually coloured remarks, etc., would be covered under this Section.
- Punishment- Imprisonment up to three years and fine up to Rs. 5 lakhs.
- Section 67A IT Act, 2000
- This Section penalises publication or transmission of any sexually explicit material in electronic form.
- The issue of sharing nude photographs, sexually obscene material would be covered under this Section.
- Punishment- Imprisonment up to five years and fine up to Rs. 10 lakh.
Section 66A of the Information Technology Act, 2000
Apart from these Sections, there are reports that the Police have invoked Section 66A of the IT Act, 2000. It must be clarified that this Section has been declared unconstitutional by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in the matter of Shreya Singhal vs. Union of India. Therefore, the court will remove this Section from the charges even if the police register an FIR under this Section.
Why do the overlooked offences need to be discussed?
There are a couple of reasons as to why the overlooked offences must be discussed. Firstly, the offence has been committed against children who are less than 18 years of age. The offence, therefore, is grave in nature and needs to be dealt with strictly. Secondly, there are special provisions to protect the interests of children which provide for enhanced punishments than the Sections which have been invoked by the Police. There are POCSO courts to deal with offences against children. Thirdly, the group was created with an intention to share such material and all those who have joined are part of a criminal conspiracy in which a multitude of offences have been committed.
As I would explain in the Section below, even the boys who were inactive but a part of the group can be charged with the same offences as the person who actually shared any illegal material in the group.
The stringent offences which seem to have been overlooked by the Police
The news reports do not indicate as to exactly what offences were committed in the group. But, apart from the already covered offences, the information that has come out till now also discloses the following acts:
- Publishing of sexually coloured remarks
- Sharing of obscene images involving a child
- Threatening of minor girls to gang rape
- Planning to commit gang rape
- Several boys created a new group and joined using a fake identity
The above mentioned acts would constitute a variety of offences under the following legislations:
Offences under the IT Act, 2000
- Section 66C– Identity Theft
- This Section would apply since the boys created fake accounts on Instagram to create and join another ‘Bois Locker Room’ group.
- Punishment- Imprisonment up to three years and fine up to one lakh rupees.
- Section 67B– Child Pornography
- This Section criminalises publishing or transmitting any electronic material which depicts children engaged in sexually explicit act or conduct.
- The Sections further criminalises creation, collection, seeking, browsing, downloading, storing, and distributing any child pornography material. This provision would incriminate all the members of the group irrespective of who was the sender of such material.
- If the material shared on the group involves a child, this Section would be more suitable and it would cover offences mentioned under Section 66E, 67, and 67A.
- Punishment- Imprisonment up to 5 years and fine up to Rs. 10 lakh.
Offences under the POCSO Act, 2012
- Section 11
- A person can be punished if he utters any word or makes any sound, or makes any gesture, or exhibits any object or part of body with the intention that such word or sound shall be heard, or such exhibit or object shall be seen by the child. This section can also be invoked if a person threatens to use any part of the body of a child through electronic mode.
- Punishment- The punishment for an offence under Section 11 is provided under Section 12. An offender can be imprisoned for up to 3 years and can also be fined.
- Section 13
- Any person who uses the image or video involving a child for pornographic purposes can be punished under this Section.
- Punishment- As per Section 14, an offence under Section 13 would attract imprisonment up to five years and fine.
Offences under the IPC
- Section 506
- Punishment for criminal intimidation.
- Since the boys intimidated girls with rape and gang rape threats, this section would also be attracted.
- Punishment: Imprisonment up to 7 years or with fine or both.
- Section 115
- Any person who abets any offence punishable with death or imprisonment for life, and the offence is not committed in consequence of the abetment, can be punished under this Section.
- Punishment- Imprisonment up to 7 years and also liable to fine.
Some more Sections which are applicable in these kind of circumstances which carry lenient punishments
Section 354A IPC and Section 15, POCSO Act are also applicable in these kind of circumstances. They provide for punishment sexual harassment and storage of child pornographic material, respectively. However, these offences carry lenient punishments.
But the group was deleted from Instagram, so how would the accused be prosecuted?
Section 79 of the Information Technology Act governs this area. Once the police apprises Instagram of the offence, Instagram would have to produce evidence with regard to the ‘Bois Locker Room’ chat group. All communications, including the members of the group, IP addresses of each member, details of creation of group, metadata of messages and chats would have to be provided and also preserved. Failing to comply with this mandate would nullify the protection given to Instagram under Section 79. In such a case, Instagram would also become liable for the offences committed by the members of the group. This is for the reason that Section 67B uses the language ‘publishes or transmits or causes to be published or transmitted’ and in this case, Instagram would be the one ‘causing to be published or transmitted’, material involving child porn.
- India Today Web Desk, Bois Locker Room: 10 things you need to know about scandal that has rocked Indian Social Media (Accessed 05.05.2020 22:33) https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/bois-locker-room-10-things-you-need-to-know-about-scandal-that-has-rocked-indian-social-media-1674687-2020-05-05
- Arvind Ojha, Delhi teen held in Bois Locker Room case, police identify 22 other members of Instagram group (Accessed 05.05.2020 22:45) https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/bois-locker-room-case-delhi-teen-in-custody-22-others-identified-1674526-2020-05-05
- Manika Raikwar Ahirwal, What My Teen Sons Taught Me About #BoisLockerRoom, (Accessed 05.05.2020 23:05) https://www.ndtv.com/blog/what-my-teen-sons-taught-me-about-boislockerroom-2223440
- OpIndia Staff, One juvenile apprehended, mobile phone recovered by Delhi Police in connection to ‘Boys Locker Room’ Instagram group case which glorified rape (Accessed 05.05.2020 23:09) https://www.opindia.com/2020/05/bois-locker-room-group-instagram-juvenile-arrested-delhi-police/