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Delhi Police lodges FIR over sexist, communal remarks made in Clubhouse chat room

A recent spate of such online incidents targeting Muslim women have led to calls for swift police action.

The Delhi Police has taken suo moto congisance and registered an FIR in the matter of lewd comments passed on Muslim women on the audio chat room app Clubhouse, KPS Malhotra, DCP of the cybercrime cell, Delhi Police told MediaNama.

DCP Malhotra said that the FIR has been lodged under the following sections of the Indian Penal Code:

  • 153A – Promoting enmity between different religious groups
  • 295A – Insulting religious beliefs
  • 354A – Assault of criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty.

“Our social media cell had done the ground work and recommended filing an FIR,” Malhotra said. “Normal process has been followed so far because ClubHouse also doesn’t belong to India…It’s the first investigation into Clubhouse, let’s see how they respond and how we cull out the information,” he added, in response to questions about actions taken and whether the MLAT route was being used. The Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty signed between the US and India, among other countries, sets a procedure for sharing of information pertaining to legal investigations.

The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) has also raised the matter with the Delhi Police in a letter addressed to DCP Malhotra on January 18. This isn’t the first time that Muslim women have been targeted online in recent times. There have been two reported instances of apps listing Muslim women for a fake online auction.

What has the DCW chair demanded?

“This is a very serious matter and merits action,” DCW Chairperson Swati Maliwal wrote in the letter which was uploaded on Twitter, noting that  ‘obscene, vulgar, and defamatory remarks’, particularly against Muslim women, were made in the Clubhouse audio-chat session. She further asked DCP Malhotra to provide the commission with the following information by January 24:

  • Copy of the FIR
  • Details of the accused identified and arrested
  • The reasons if no arrests have been made
  • Detailed action taken report on the matter

What was the incident?

The Clubhouse audio chat, which led to the FIR being lodged, saw 18-20 participants comparing Muslim and Hindu women by discussing the former’s private parts, converting them, etc., according to a report by The Print. This is not the first time that the platform has landed in controversy for giving space to communal statements.

In July 2021, the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology had acknowledged in a parliamentary response that Clubhouse was an intermediary as per the Information Technology (IT) Rules 2021. Last June, it was reported that various government agencies had been authorised “to track the rooms scheduled by clubs that is generating excitement or individual or group chats in open or closed rooms in real-time.”

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I cover health technology for MediaNama but, really, love all things tech policy. Always willing to chat with a reader! Reach me at anushka@medianama.com

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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