The internet is a place of wonder and horror alike. On Monday, people across India were outraged to discover one of the aforementioned horrors -- an Instagram group where teenage boys spoke casually of 'gang raping girls' and allegedly shared morphed pictures of girls their age. These boys are minors, that is, under the age of 18. They belonged to group called 'Bois Locker Room' and were believed to have been on Instagram and Snapchat. According to a PTI report, the group was being used by several hundred members to share objectionable content.
As of Tuesday, the Delhi Police has initiated a probe into the matter and its Cyber Cell unit has written to Instagram to share details of the group's members and admin and is awaiting their response in this regard. One minor has been apprehended in connection with the case on Monday. The Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) had taken suo-motu cognisance of reports regarding the group, the panel said in a notice to Instagram. The police have also found that some of the members of the group are aged above 18 years.
The Indian judicial system believes that every individual is innocent until proven guilty, but in this case, a question that is being asked by many is whether they will be punished in accordance with laws for minors or adults. The answer is not it clear however, simply because it remains to be seen what exactly the members of the group are charged with.
As per an India Today report, atop official of the Delhi Police had ordered that an FIR be filed under Sections 465 (forgery), 471(using as genuine a forged document or electronic record), 469 (forgery for purpose of harming reputation), 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal Code, and two sections of the IT Act, namely Section 67 which deals with the publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form and Section 67A which deals with the publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act in electronic form.
None of these are however offenses that incur a punishment of seven years or more. And according to the Juvenile Justice Act, as per the most recent amendment, someone between the ages of 16 and 18 can be tried as an adult in case the crime committed was heinous in nature, that is, something that carries a minimum punishment of seven years. This is not mandatory. And in many cases, even such people have been tried as a minor.
In 2020, the Supreme Court decided to consider a 17 year and 361 day old individual as a juvenile, stating that he would not go to jail for his crime. He had been behind the wheel of his father's car when the speeding Mercedes hit and killed Siddharth Sharma in 2016. The apex court had ruled that his offence did not fall under the 'heinous offenses' category as per the JJ Act. The Juvenile Justice Board incidentally had earlier allowed him to be tried as an adult in a trial court.
It now remains to be seen whether any further charges are added when it comes to the members of the Instagram group. If any "heinous" charge is added, that might be grounds for trial as an adult.
Of course, if any adult member of the group is charged, the rules mentioned above wouldn't be relevant.