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Monitor the investigation into Bulli Bai app, lawyers association asks Chief Justice of India

The letter calls on CJI NV Ramana to ensure that the police investigate the money trail and other unknown aspects of the app.

Supreme Court
Credit: Aditi Agrawal

“These apps not only auction prominent Muslim women on a public platform, but are also attempts to sexualise and dehumanise the larger community” the Delhi High Court Women’s Lawyers Association said referring to the Bulli Bai and Sulli Deals apps in their letter addressed to the Chief Justice of India (CJI).

The association of 150 lawyers urged the CJI and other judges to issue guidelines to prevent such an incident from reoccurring, supervise the investigation undertaken by the Mumbai police, ensure a time-bound investigation, and so on, while also flagging the slowness of police action.

“We believe that the ‘Bulli deals’ app happened because no one was punished for Sulli Deals. Although FIRs had been previously registered in the matter of Sulli Deals, no one was arrested and the investigation has been a non-starter in the same,” the letter read.

The apps that were developed and hosted on GitHub before being taken down, listed Muslim women in a fake auction by using their photographs without their knowledge. At least five people have reportedly been arrested last week by the Mumbai and Delhi police in connection with the two cases.

The signatories of the letter include prominent lawyers like Vrinda Bhandari and Geeta Luthra. The CJI holds the highest legal office in the country and oversees the functioning of the Supreme Court as well.

What are the demands of the lawyers?

Asking that the letter be considered as a ‘letter petition’, the following demands have been put forth by the association:

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  • Issue directions to:
    • The District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police of every district to prevent the vilification of minorities, fake news about them, and calls for their genocide.
    • Central and state governments to secure and ensure that minorities can enjoy their right to life with dignity and security.
  • Prohibit the auctioning of women like objects
  • Monitor and ensure the investigation into Sulli Deals and Bulli Bai takes place and includes:
    • Finding the handlers of those who made the apps
    • Finding the money trail financing the apps
    • Finding people who surveilled the women auctioned on the apps
  • Chargesheet be drawn with all relevant sections, including Section 120 of the Indian Penal Code which is related to concealing design to commit offence.
  • Direct a time-bound investigation. 

Victims, heads of women cells, politicians seek action against apps

Swati Maliwal, the chairperson of the Delhi Commission for Women wrote to the Deputy Commissioner of Police, Cyber Cell on January 3, flagging inaction on the matter and asked him to give the commission an update on the status of the cases. Earlier, Gurjit Singh Aujla, a Congress MP, had also written to Union Home Minister Amit Shah seeking punishment for the creators of Bulli Bai, and in August, Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi had written to IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw about the Sulli Deals app.

Four FIRs have been filed so far by the Hyderabad, Cyberabad, Mumbai, and Delhi police, based on complaints by victims against the creators of the app.

  • In Delhi, the FIR was filed under Section 67 of the IT Act which covers publishing or transmitting obscene material in electronic form and Indian Penal Code Sections 153 A related to promoting enmity between different religious groups, 153 B for Imputations, assertions prejudicial to national-integration, 354 (A) for assault of criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty and 509 which deals with a word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman.
  • In Mumbai, the FIR was filed under Section 67 of the IT Act, and IPC sections 153, 153B, and 509. Other sections were 295A related to insulting religious beliefs, 354D for stalking and 500 related to criminal defamation.
  • The Hyderabad FIR was filed under sections 67 of the IT Act and IPC Sections 354(A) and 509 while the Cyberabad police FIR was been filed on 4th January under the IT Act’s Section 67 and IPC Section 509.

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I cover health technology for MediaNama, among other things. Reach me at anushka@medianama.com

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