Crime, generally, now being globally networked – drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism etc has no geographical boundaries


  • By R K Shukla (former Director CBI)

The relentless global technological- manthan has spewed both Amrit and Vish. While we joyously welcome the Amrit; the hitherto unknown hydra- headed Vish causes grave and urgent concern. Crime, generally, now being globally networked—drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorism, child exploitation et al has no geographical boundaries.But, the most appalling, disgusting, vicious and abominable crime of all is — online child sexual abuse. Tragically, it is growing exponentially—insidiously, surreptitiously and anonymously.
An invidious truth is that the images and videos are indiscriminately—and, often under innocuous covers—available on social networking and allied websites on all electronic devices connected to the internet. Encrypted networks make these grotesque offenders practically untraceable. The terms like ‘Child Porn’, ‘Kid porn’ or ‘Pornography’ etc., are used to denote this extremely harmful menace. Behind every image or video, there is a real child victim understate, there is real exploitation and there is a crime. The continuous production and distribution of such material fuels the demand for new and more egregious images, perpetuating the abuse of new children.
The fight to save our children against online child sexual abuse is multidimensional consisting of criminalization of offence, prevention, proactive detection, criminal investigation, curbing propagation, identification/restitution of victim and prosecution of offender. Any child having an access to the internet must be educated on what is and isn’t acceptable behaviour online. We have to diligently educate our children about the many deviant and dangerous situations they may encounter online. The social media platforms are developing protocols for proactive detection and blocking of such content. These are certainly part of the solution but the importance of investigation andprosecution of crime remain as important as ever.
India has one of the largest population of children in the world. The 2011 Census shows that India has a population of 472 million children below the age of eighteen, of which 225 million are girls. The digital penetration in India is growing leaps and bounds. It increases the possibility of crime.
In India, online child sexual abuse is well criminalised through the IT Act and POCSO. POCSO provides a robust legal framework putting children first by including mechanisms for child-friendly reporting, recording of evidence, investigation and speedy trial of offences through designated Special Courts. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), meanwhile, monitors the status of POSCO implementation.
The Law Enforcement Agencies in India are committed to fight against Online Child Abuse through active liaison with Interpol and International community. Other than getting content blocked and sharing information, investigation into criminal offence is also taken on high priority. CBI has set up a dedicated Cell to collect, collate, investigate and disseminate information regarding Online Child Sexual Abuse Content.

In line with commitment to fight this menace, CBI has joined International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database maintained by Interpol for support on the Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM). India is 68th member country to have joined this database. The database holds more than 27 lakh images and helped identify more than 23,000 victims. Interpol Secretary General has recently highlighted the utility of database so much so that it identifies 07 victims, on an average, on daily basis.
Realizing that Joint Coordinated Intelligence based operations are key to process, CBI conducted large pan-India operations in the recent years.Operation Carbon in 2021 and Operation Megh Chakra in 2022. The unfortunate revelation is that menace has spread to all parts of the country. Now only that, there is footprint of offence in more than 100 jurisdictions across the globe. The real challenge lies in taking these Operations to logical conclusion.None- the- less, these countrywide searches greatly help create vital public awareness.
When offenders across more than 100 jurisdictions can seamlessly join hands in a heinous crime, it is ironical that Law Enforcement not only takes months but years to put forward a credible and coordinated response. The Mutual Legal Assistance faces delays. The absence of real time actionable data for investigations due to territoriality, complex mechanism of sharing data across jurisdictions, use of Anonymisers/Proxies/VPNs/ Peer to Peer Networks by perpetrators, use of fake IDs is a major handicap.
Online Child Abuse can’t be equated with other crimes. The policy makes and Law Enforcement need to find solutions rather than getting bogged down by territorial considerations,legal asymmetries and complex procedures. As a responsible global community, we should sink all our differences and set up a truly global effort, a gargantuan offensive, against this menace.
For the present, Interpol can truly be a global trust-builder across Law Enforcement agencies. It is best placed — with its deep penetration and wide range of partnerships. The forthcoming Interpol general assembly in Delhi should laser focus on this issue primarily, making it a deservedly topmost priority.
Our children FIRST—every time, everywhere. That MUST be the motto and the goal for the global community.

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