w w w . L a w y e r S e r v i c e s . i n



The Registrar (Judicial), Madurai Bench of Madras High Court, Madurai v/s The Secretary to Government, Union Ministry of Communications, Government of India, New Delhi & Others


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    Suo Motu W.P.(MD).No. 16668 of 2017

    Decided On, 12 September 2017

    At, Before the Madurai Bench of Madras High Court

    By, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE K.K. SASIDHARAN & THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE G.R. SWAMINATHAN

    For the Appearing Parties: N. Tamil Mani, V. Kathirvelu, Assistant Solicitor General of India, D. Saravanan, Govindan, Special Government Pleader, Veera Kathiravan, Senior Counsel Thiruppathi Chellasamy, K.P.S. Palanivel Rajan, Rajendran, Ananda Gomathi, Advocates.



Judgment Text

(Prayer: Writ Petition is filed under Article 226 of the Constitution of India to issue a Writ of Mandamus or direction or any other direction in the nature of writ to the respondents

(i) To device a proper mechanism to put an end to the dangerous game of Blue Whale;

(ii) To give counselling to the students in order to un-install the game;

(iii) To undertake social awareness in the communicative medias;

(iv) to check on internet cafes periodically.

and thus render justice.)

K.K. Sasidharan, J.

INTRODUCTORY:

1. Percy Bysshe Shelley sang of "the desire of the moth for the star, of the night for the morrow, the devotion to something afar from the sphere of our sorrow". But the moth does not go to the star. It falls into the flame and dies. Online games tap such tendencies innate in individuals. They challenge the player to move from one level to the next higer level. They are addictive. Mostly, they are a meaningless waste of time, though some are psychologically harmful. But where the finale is fatal, it can no longer be ignored as something private. The Blue Whale game is one such. It started in Russia and has since spread worldwide. It has now arrived in our very neighbourhood. Vilachery, a sleepy hamlet at a stone's throw distance from the Madurai city limit witnessed the suicide of J.Vicky @ Vignesh last month. He hung himself from his house ceiling. The picutre of a Whale was tattooed on his hand. When this appeared as a news item in the leading newspapers on 01.09.2017, we directed the Registry to register the same as Suo Motu Public Interest Litigation.

2. THE ORDER DATED 01.09.2017 TAKING SUO MOTU COGNIZANCE:

The leading Newspapers on 01 September, 2017, reported on the basis of the preliminary enquiry conducted by the Madurai Police into the alleged suicide of J.Vignesh Alias Vicky, aged 19 years, of Vilacherry that the boy look his life after playing a game of "Blue Whale" online. It is reported that the game, which is believed to have originated in Russia, involves 50 extreme tasks, which a participant is required to undertake and eventually culminates in his/her suicide. The victim, a second year B.Com., student of a City College in his suicide note stated that Blue Whale was not a game, but a disaster. It was said, "once you enter into it, you can't escape from it". According to the police, in other suspected Blue Whale Game related suicides, the participants had ended their lives by jumping off buildings. The case of Vignesh appears to be an exception to this, as according to the police, the administrator of the Blue Whale Game could have realized that the building of the Velacheri House of the Boy did not have the required height to kill him, in the event of his jumping from the terrace.

The information furnished by the police is alarming. The administrator of this dangerous game appears to be taking psychological control of the victims of the game, and prompt them to commit suicide. The administrator is abetting suicide by manipulating the young minds and exploiting their vulnerable psychological condition.

The online activities of the children remain unchecked. The internet cafes across the State also appear to be promoting the online game "Blue Whale Challenge".

We are informed that only vulnerable adolescents are targeted in this dangerous game and this is proved by the fact that youth below 25 alone were the victims of this game so far.

The Administrator of the game is playing with the lives of the youth. They are aware of the exact location of the player. Though the initial task is stated to be easy, motivating and challenging, the next stage would be dangerous and more gory. Soon, the players would be addicted to the game. There is an emergent need to curb the menace of this game.

We should sensitize the youth and more particularly, the students. The police and the social activists got a definite role to play in this matter. The parents have a primary responsibility to watch as to what their children were doing with their smart phones and computers. Those who are playing the game must be given counselling and they should be made to un-install the game.

Time has come now to act swiftly to curb the cancerous growth of this game. The parents, police and the general public must also rise to the occasion.

There is no proper mechanism as of now to put an end to this dangerous game and to do counselling to the students, or undertaking social awareness and to keep a check on internet cafes. We are, therefore, of the view that constitutional Court has got the responsibility to take up the issue in larger public interest.

We, therefore, direct the Registrar (Judicial) to register a Public Interest Writ Petition under Article 226 of the Constitution of India, impleading the following respondents as parties:

1. The Secretary to Government, Union Ministry of Communications, Government of India, New Delhi.

2. The Official In-charge , Computer Emergency Response Team, Ministry of Communications, Government of India, New Delhi.

3. The Principal Secretary to Government, Home Department, Government of Tamil Nadu, Fort St. George, Chennai.

4. The Director General of Police, Chennai.

5. The Commissioner of Police, Cyber Crime (CBCID), Police Department, Chennai.

6. The Director of Social Welfare, Government of Tamil Nadu, Chennai.

7. The Director of School Education, Chennai.

8. The Director of Collegiate Education, Chennai.

9. The Collector, Madurai.

10. The Commissioner of Police, Madurai.

11. The Superintendent of Police, Madurai.

Post "for admission" on 04 September, 2017.

3. The Union Government, the State Government, the Local Administration, the IIT Chennai and a Non Governmental Organisation were made parties. We issued notices to them. The Director General of Police, Tamil Nadu was directed to issue suitable advisories to the general public cautioning them. The Government of Tamil Nadu and Education Department acted swiftly and complied with our directions.

4. The contents of the order dated 04.09.2017:

"We have taken suo moto cognizance of reports published in various newspapers on 01.09.2017, on the basis of preliminary enquiry conducted by the Madurai Police into the alleged suicide of J.Vignesh alias Viki, a student aged about 19 years, hailing from Vilacheri that the boy took away his life, after playing the Blue Whale game through online. We are informed that the Administrator of the dangerous game psychologically controls the young minds of the victims and prompts them to commit suicide. We are also informed that the Administrator of the said game appears to abet suicides by manipulating the young minds and exploiting their vulnerable psychological condition.

2. After taking cognizance of the matter, newspapers have reported two other incidents. One took place in Pondicherry and another news published on today, containing the information with regard to the alleged attempt of suicide by a Pondicherry-based Bank staff. The Police intervened and rescued the woman from committing suicide.

3. Seeking response to the writ petition taken suo moto by us and taking into account the larger public interest in the matter, we have heard the learned Assistant Solicitor General of India on behalf of Union of India, the learned Special Government Pleader, on behalf of the State of Tamil Nadu and Mr.Veera Kathiravan, learned Senior Counsel, who is present in court. We have also heard Mr.Senthil Ilanthiraiyan, Inspector of Police, Cyber Cell, who is present in Court and the Inspector of Police, who is investigating the suicide case of J.Vignesh alias Viki.

4. Considering the magnitude of the problem and the urgent necessity to tackle the situation both by prohibiting the dangerous game and by giving counselling to the students and the young minds, we issue notice to the respondents.

5. We are informed that Thiru.S.Aravind, I.P.S, presently, the Superintendent of Police, Special Branch Division CID, Chennai and Ms.Lavanya, Additional Superintendent of Police, presently at CBCID, Chennai have done research on the subject. We therefore, request Thiru.S.Aravind, I.P.S and Ms.Lavanya, Additional Superintendent of Police to offer their inputs on this issue. We implead the 'Director of Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai' as 12th respondent in the writ petition. We also implead the State Mental Health Authority, Chennai and the Director of SNEHA Suicide Prevention Centre, Chennai as parties.

6. We request the learned Senior Counsel Mr.Veera Kathiravan, Mr.Rajendran, learned Advocate, Chennai and R.Thirupathi Chellasamy, learned Advocate and Mr.K.P.S.Palanivel Rajan, learned Amicus Curiae, to assist us.

7. We request the learned Assistant Solicitor General of India, representing the Union of India and the Official In-charge, Computer Emergency Response Team, Ministry of Communications, Government of India, New Delhi, to get necessary inputs from the service providers, more particularly the Google, Face Book, Microsoft , Yahoo and Instagram to remove the links of the deadly Blue Whale Challenge.

8. We direct the Director General of Police and the Commissioner of Police, Cyber Cell Wing, CBCID, Chennai to offer their valuable suggestions. Let notice be issued to the Director, SNEHA, Suicide Prevention Centre, Chennai, through Police so as to enable them to get their inputs with regard to the counselling and other information given to youth. We also direct the Director of School Education and Collegiate Education to offer their suggestions for the purpose of counselling to the students.

9. We direct the Principal Secretary to Government, Home Department and Director General of Police, Chennai, to issue notification/press statement, indicating that those who are providing links to the deadly game 'Blue Whale' and the curators and others, who facilitate the spread of the game would be dealt with seriously.

10. The learned Assistant Solicitor General of India undertakes to serve notice on the Director of Indian Institute of Technology to take necessary inputs in this matter. We also request Thiru.S.Aravind, I.P.S, presently, the Superintendent of Police, Special Division CID, Chennai and Ms.Lavanya, Additional Superintendent of Police, CBCID, Chennai to be present, during the next date of hearing along with their inputs.

11. Post the Writ Petition on 07 September 2017, immediately after motion."

5. We have heard Shri.V.Kathirvelu, learned Assistant Solicitor General of India appearing for the Union of India and Shri.M.Govindan, Special Government Pleader for the State Government and its departments. We also heard Shri.Veera Kathiravan, Senior Counsel, Ms.Ananda Gomathi and Shri.K.P.S.Palanivel Rajan, advocates who acted as Amicus curiae. Shri.Aravind, IPS, Ms.Lavanya ADSP and Shri.V.Rajendran, Principal Consultant Cyber Society of India offered their valuable inputs as domain experts. Shri.Aravind, I.P.S., Ms.Lavanya, ADSP and Shri.V.Rajendran, Principal Consultant, Cyber Society of India deserve to be specially appreciated and thanked. They brought to bear their expertise on this proceedings. They explained in simple terms and in a language that was totally free of any technical jargon the intricacies in the matter. Due to their dedicated participation in these proceedings, we were made aware of the magnititude of the problem. We place our immense gratitude to all of them.

DISCUSSION:

6. The Blue Whale challenge is of fairly recent origin. It is believed to have been started in Russia in 2013 and gained its notoriety among teenagers and more particularly, students. We are informed that this game was invented by a Russian Psychopath, who stated that he wanted "to clean the Society of those are not fit to live".

7. The link is invariably supplied by Whatsapp Group and on opening the link, the person would receive instructions from the administrator of the Game. The first phase is to give the personal details, photograph, e-mail ID and mobile number. This is to have a thorough idea of the person including his location. Thereafter, the horror game would commence. The time prescribed for completing each task is after 02.00 a.m., every day.

8. It is reported that even though "the enthusiasm to play the game with thrill is the motivating factor initially, it is only the fear that their personal information is hacked by the administrator that the players are reluctant to come out of the death-trap.

9. The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights took up the matter on 04.05.2017 by calling upon the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (Meity) to take immediate action to ban the game and its spread in India. Thereupon, MeitY requested Google India to unlist/remove the said game/apps from relavant platforms like Google Playstore for avoiding further downloads/circulation in India. Compliance of the same was instructed to be reported at the earliest. The reply from Google India Pvt Ltd. vide its letter dated 22.05.2017 is revealing. While Google India appreciated the concerns of the Union Government, they made it clear that Google services such as Google Play are provided by Google Inc, a company incorporated under and governed by the laws of United States. It was made clear that Google India does not play any role in providing the said services. They claimed to have referred the matter to the Google Play Team who have indicated that they are aware of the aforementioned game and are continuing to take action on any apps that they find are in violation of the Google Play Policy. It was also mentioned that if any user suspects an app may be in violation of play policy, it can be reported.

10. We read and re-read the aforesaid response of Google India. Google India has virtually washed its hands off. Action will be taken by Google Play Team based in USA if their "Policy" is violated. MeitY had also written to Microsoft India, Facebook India, Yahoo India and other social media service providers requiring them to ensure that the link to the said deadly game is immediately removed from their platforms. The proponent of the game was to be reported to the Law Enforcement Agencies. The Central Board of Secondary Education has also issued a detailed circular addressed to all Heads of Institutions affilated to CBSE setting out the series of measures to be adopted by the Schools.

11. The Director General of Police issued a circular to all the Commissioners of Police/Superintendents of Police to publicize the precautionary measures and create awareness in this regard among the School and College Faculty, parents and students in their respective jurisdictions. The Inspector of Police, Cyber Crime Cell, Madurai City submitted a report setting out the measures taken by them such as surprise checking of the Browsing Centres in their jurisdictions. A help line has also been opened for counselling round the clock. It was submitted that they are watching the social media and the websites intensely to find out the links regarding the Blue Whale challenge.

12. On account of the steps taken by the Central and State Governments, Blue Whale challenge is no longer downloadable. But then it continues to be played online. There is information that the game is even now available under other names such as 'A Silent House', 'Wake me up at 4.20 a.m' etc.. It is played by using smartphones or similar devices. Cases of suicidal deaths because of this game are being reported throughout the world including India. On account of the intervention of the Police, there has been a case of rescue of a woman at Puduchery. It came to be known that she was using a Russian based social media platform known as "Vkontakte". This networking application is similar to Facebook and is available over Android, iOS and Windows platforms. But no direction can be issued by the Indian Authorities to "Vkontakte" as it is not governed by the laws of India.

13. Even though Blue Whale game is no longer downloadable, it is still available. The administrator is able to reach out to the potential victims through what is known as "Over the top services" like Whatsapp, Telegram, Wickr, Silent Circle, osTel, ChatSecure, Signal, ShareIt etc. They can create closed communication/chatting fora which ensure anonymity of the users. The law enforcement agencies are left in the dark as there is no communication nodes to these service providers. The administrator of this game uses any one of the aforesaid OTT services to communicate. The Police are left with no clue about the administrator as well as the players.

THREAT TO NATIONAL SECURITY:

14. One of the counsel raised the possiblity that the very same modus operandi can be adopted by anti-national forces and international terrorists. They can identify potential youth for radicalisation from the mainstream platforms like Facebook, Twitter etc. Once identified, the selected people can be taken to closed groups over Telegram or Whatsapp where they can be further groomed and trained and radicalised. Thereafter, specific instruction can be passed on for execution. It was whispered, rather audibly at the Bar, that this is already going on. The threat to national security from the net is far more serious than what is apparent now.

15. On account of the end - to - end encryption, the messages sent over WhatsApp cannot be read or accessed by anybody except the users concerned. It was reported that the Islamic State terrorists had been using WhatsApp to plot the November, 2015 Paris attacks. In March, 2017 the UK Secretary of State, Ms.Amber Rudd, stated that encryption capabilities of messaging tools like WhatsApp are unacceptable as it has come to be known that Khalid Masood used this application minutes before perpetrating the 2017 Westminster attack. Ms.Rudd publicly demanded that Police and Inteligence agencies must be given access to WhatsApp and other encrypted messaging services to prevent future terror attacks. It is on record that the perpetrator of the Stockholm attack in April, 2017 also used WhatsApp to exchange messages.

16. It is this current reality and potential dangers that made us to look beyond. Cyber investigation is still at a nascent stage in India. The investigators are often at a dead - end because they have neither the access to the communication inside the OTT services/ social networking sites nor could they collect the crucial user information required for investigation from the anonymous service providers. For instance, no one knows who is operating "Telegram". It does not have a nodal officer who can be called upon to comply with the directives that may be issued by the law enforcement agencies. Even if they are available in India, they tend to take the stand that the OTT service/social networking service is provided by another company incorporated in USA or any other foreign country and that therefore they are not in a position to furnish the information sought for. They also claim that they do not have the obligation to comply with the directions issued by the Indian Authorities.

THE LEGISLATIVE FRAMEWORK:

17. At this stage, it is necessary to have a brief look at the legal architecture. The Information Technology Act, 2000 enacted by the Parliament was more to legally recognize e-commerce. Only the 2008 Amendment put in place the regulatory mechanism to deal with online offences and to provide for preventive and remedial measures. Section 69-A of the IT Act confers power to issue directions for blocking for public access of any information through any computer resource. Section 69-B authorises the Central Government to monitor and collect traffic data or information through any computer resource for cyber security. Section 79 talks about the role of the intermediaries. Rules have been framed setting out the procedure as well as safeguards for blocking for access of information by the public, in the year 2009. In the year 2011, rules were framed containing the guidelines for the intermediaries. The intermediaries have to observe due diligence while discharging their duties. CERT-In (Indian Computer Emergency Response Team) has been set up under Section 70-B of the IT Act, 2000. Rules have been framed in 2013 cataloging the duties and functions of the said authority. Rule 14 of Information Technology (The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team and Manner of Performing Functions and Duties) Rules, 2013 empowers the appropriate authority of CERT-In to seek information from service providers, intermediaries, data centres, body corporates and any other person for carrying out its statutory functions. The information sought for by the authority must be furnished within the time and in the format stipulated.

DIRECTIONS ISSUED BY THE HON'BLE SUPREME COURT:

18. We are not treading a virgin ground. The Hon'ble Supreme Court rose to the occasion when the menace of child pornography in internet was brought to its notice. Websites showing child pornography had mushroomed in thousands and assumed menacing proportions. The Supreme Court took cognizance of the matter in Kamlesh Vaswani Vs. Union of India [(2014) 6 SCC 705 and (2016) 7 SCC 592]. The matter was listed from time to time. Finally, the Government of India vide order No.813-7/25/2011-DS(Vol.5) dated 31.03.2015 directed all the Internet Service Providers to disable as many as 9 URLs. The direction was issued under Section 79 (3) (b) of Information Technology Act, 2000 as the content hosted on the said website related to morality and decency, as dealt with in Article 19(2)of the Constitution of India. The Supreme Court while adjourning the matter made it clear that all further steps must be taken to stop child pornography.

19. The other major instance of intervention by the Hon'ble Supreme Court was in a similar matter pertaining to enforcement of the prohibition of advertisements for gender selection as set out in Section 22 of Pre- Conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994. When the Hon'ble Apex Court was informed that notwithstanding the legal prohibition, Google India, Yahoo India and Microsoft Corporation were disseminating advertisements in complete violation of the laws of the land, it directed the Government of India to respond. Interestingly, the affidavit filed by the Department of Electronics and Information Technology highlighted the difficulties of enforcement as most of the Websites were hosted outside the country. This helplessness expressed by the department was severely frowned upon by the Hon'ble Bench presided over by His Lordship Mr.Justice Dipak Misra (as His Lordship then was). It was made clear that every effort has to be made to see that nothing contrary to the laws of the country is advertised or shown in the websites. The response of the Union Government in this case [Sabu Mathew George V. Union of India (2017) 2 SCC 514, (2015) 11 SCC 545] as well as that of the service providers is illuminating. It was submitted by the Union Government that there are certain areas which can be controlled and there are certain areas which may not be possible to be controlled by Central Government. When the Hon'ble Supreme Court directed filing of a comprehensive affidavit by the Central Government, a meeting was arranged with the service providers and their answers were placed on record. The Hon'ble Supreme Court directed that the mechanism of auto-block must be introduced in this case. As a result, if any person tries to avail the corridors of these companies, the device shall be adopted so that no one can enter or see anything that falls foul of Section 22 of the Act. When the service providers protested that this will have an adverse bearing on freedom of access to information, the court made it clear that such freedom cannot violate the law that holds the field. The Union Government was called upon to constitute a nodal agency in this regard. If the directions of the Hon'ble Supreme Court could be successfully implemented in the case of enforcement of Section 22 of Pre-conception and Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act, 1994, there is no reason as to why inspiration cannot be taken therefrom for addressing the larger concerns that have now come up before us.

20. The Government of India cannot be heard to say that agencies will carry on their business operations in the territory of India but would remain outside the reach of its law enforcement. The preambular declaration is that the people of India had solemnly constituted India into a Sovereign Republic. A sovereign has certain attributes, one of which is that those who are within its territorial limits shall abide by its commands.

21. When a citizen of Spain wanted certain references in internet to be deleted, he was asserting what has now come to be known as "Right to be Forgotten". When Google resisted, it was ultimately made to comply with the laws of the region by the European Court of Justice in Google Spain Vs. Agencia Espanola. There are several nations in the world which have errected a firewall in the national borders of the information highway. India is a flourishing democracy. We have reiterated that privacy is a fundamental right. There is a robust regulatory frame work. The authorities cannot act in arbitrary manner. In Shreya Singhal v. Union of India (2015)5 SCC 1, the Hon'ble Supreme Court while striking down Section 66-A of IT Act, 2000 upheld the constitutional validity of Section 69-A and the Information Technology (Procedure and Safegaurds for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules 2009. Section 79 of the Act relating to intermediaries was also sustained by reading down Section 79 (3)(b) of the Act. The IT (intermediary guide lines) Rules 2011 were also upheld in the same manner by reading down Rule 3(4). Therefore, there can be no apprehension that there will be violation of the privacy rights of the citizens or that there will be a surveillance State if the service providers are brought within the regulatory framework.

22. The service providers cannot abdicate their responsibilities. They cannot also plead that they have no control over the content. A mere look at the net neutrality debate that is presently going on would show that the service providers are in a position to have control over the content that passes through their information highway. If the service providers can attempt to control the content for commercial considerations, they can certainly be called upon to exercise their power of control in public interest also. Rather they must be mandated to do so.

23. Of course, there are certain long term solutions. ?Make in India? is the ultimate answer. In fact India developed her own operating system rivaling Microsoft Windows. It was tested and used about a decade back. It was called BOSS (Bharat Operating System Software) designed, coded and developed by the State owned centre for the development of Advanced Computing (CDAC). None other that the late President, Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam commended it. But due to lack of marketing, the product did not take off. India continues to be dependent on the software and other systems developed overseas. This compromises the national security also.

24. Ms.Anantha Gomathi, Advocate made her submissions based on the inputs given by Dr.Vasuda Prakash, Founder director of Ms.V Excel Educational Trust, Chennai. The same is usefully extracted as under:

'The blue whale menace even if countered today can always make a comeback in any other form like a black dolphin game or a grey horse.

The game is intended to target children who are low on self esteem and are equally insecure.

The concept of feeling connected is on the low in the present day kids and therefore children feel a need to connect with the virtual world and thus land themselves in situations like the Blue Whale.

This is because of deep rooted parental issues like lack of touch and lack of connectivity between parents and children.

The screen is a largely addictive factor and addicts everyone across the globe, be it the computer or the mobile or a laptop and a television. Humans are prone to screen addiction.

The children who fall victims are the ones who are insecure and also stressed.

The problem can be countered by building emotional resilience in the children which needs to be worked at School level.'

The following activities may be advised at the School level for children to be emotionally resilient and also have a sense of purpose in life.

'The school must start activities which involves children in social work.

Group therapy by psychologists must be rendered to the children and in the process, the most prone children must be identified and given continuous individual therapy.

It must be ensured that children do not feel isolated.

Children must be counselled and taught to have a 'THEME FOR LIFE' and must be involved in meaningful, purposeful activities which make a difference to the world. For eg: Cleaning the neighbourhood, Planting trees etc.

A lot of counselling needs to be initiated at School level.

Support Groups need to be formed for helping out children who may be prone to Blue Whale.

Counselling needs to be equally rendered to Parents to build connectivity and emotional resilience in the children.'

25. The Blue Whale is not a freely downloadable game but comes in a secret social media group with a curator who "sends you the app" and tracks you with your feedback and the results of the activities undertaken, prompting the participants to send photos of the activities accomplished as per instructions. It would be shocking to know that these activities include getting up at 4 A.M., climbing down flights of hundreds of staircase-steps, watching horror movies at night, walking outside alone at midnight, going to the graveyard alone, spending a whole day in silence etc. Gradually, the intensity or difficulty of the tasks increases, and advanced activities include inflicting self-injuries on the body by cutting the skin. The Game culminates with the final activity of going to a roof-top and jumping off a high-rise to commit suicide. It sounds scary to even read this. It is further shocking to know that there is reportedly an 'Indian curator' for the challenge or some one with Indian victim-participation in mind, since the final task ie Day-50 which was originally with an instruction to "Jump from the top floor and kill yourself" has been reportedly changed for the Indian victims as "Hang yourself" to suit the Indian conditions of not many high rise buildings and yet 'facilitate' killing!. We have been coming across several cases of suicide across the globe by participants in the Blue Whale Challenge, and since the beginning of this year, such cases are being reported almost daily. In India too, in the past few months, the media has been reporting several such cases from down South in Kerala to the West in Mumbai, and other parts of the country too. In many educational institutions, school authorities have noticed increasing interest by the students to explore this scary Challenge. It is curiousity, no doubt. It is reported that some school authorities have noticed unusual and strange behaviour in their students, and on investigation, they have discovered that these students were participants in the Blue Whale Challenge. Unfortunately, on being questioned, they first feigned ignorance of any such activity or 'Game'. Such confidentiality by the participants is a social, psychological issue typical for an adolescent and is to be handled with care by elders and seniors.

DIRECTIONS:

26. Having considered the issue from all perspectives, we issue the following directions:-

A. Directions to the Central Government:-

i. The Central Government is directed to take appropriate steps, as expeditiously as possible to bring all the "Over The Top" services as well as service providers into a legal framework obliging them to comply with the laws of India and to provide the required information to the law enforcing agencies. Methods must to be devised to ensure that those OTTs which could not be brought within such framework are not accessible in India.

ii. CERT-In is directed to collect the digital equipments such as smart mobile phones, tablet computers and laptops used by the victims of Blue Whale challenge game for conducting digital forensic analysis so that the source of the game as well as the administrators of the game could be found out.

iii. The internet service providers must be directed to take due diligence to remove all the links and hash-tags presently being circulated in the social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter etc and also in dark net with URLs/links related to Blue Whale game.

iv. The internet service providers in India must be called upon to furnish information regarding downloads/access to suspicious links/URLs of the game, prior to the removal from their platforms.

v. The Central Government must seek co-operation and use its diplomatic relationship with Russia to block the URLS/Links related to Blue Whale game and penal action against the culprits on behalf of India.

vi. The Technology Companies and Websites follow the Laws of their respective jurisdiction and as such, they are not providing the "Data and Information", in spite of making a request for it by the Law Enforcing Agencies in India on account of violation of Indian Laws. This is evident from the communication dated 22 May, 2017, received by the Director, Cyber Laws and Security Group, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, Government of India from Google India Private Limited, that Google service, such as Google play are provided by Google Inc, a company incorporated under and governed by the Laws of United States. The Central Government must address this issue seriously and consider amending the relevant Rules and Regulations applicable to the Indian subsidiaries and websites making it compulsorily amenable to Indian Laws.

B. Directions to the State Government:-

i. The Government of Tamil Nadu shall designate forthwith Shri.Dr.S.Murugan, I.P.S., an Expert in Cyber Law, presently functioning as Joint Director, Department of Vigilance and Anti Corruption, Chenn

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ai - 16, as the Nodal Officer in terms of Rule 4 of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009. This would be in addition to his duties as Joint Director, Department of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption. ii. The Nodal Officer must in coordination with the Designated Officer appointed under Rule 3 of the Information Technology (Procedure and Safeguards for Blocking for Access of Information by Public) Rules, 2009 and other authorities must ensure the implementation of the order blocking the website and removal of links. The State Government is directed to provide necessary manpower and resources to the Nodal Officer for carrying out his functions in larger public interest. It is open to the Nodal Officer to take the assistance of other Experts in the field of Cyber Law and preferably Ms.Lavanya, ADSP, who is presently with the C.B.C.I.D., Chennai. iii. The Director General of Police is directed to ensure that the instructions given vide circular bearing C.No.121311/General-1/2017 dated 01.09.2017 are complied with in letter and spirit. iv. The Principal Secretary to Government, School Education Department, the Principal Secretary to Government, Higher Education Department, the Director of School Education and the Director of College Education shall take active steps to ensure that all Educational Institutions in Tamil Nadu sensitize and warn the students as well as the parents not only about this Blue Whale challenge game but also the lurking dangers in the digital world. v. The Government must constitute District and Taluk Level Committee comprising members from Non-Governmental Organization, Psychiatrists, Voluntary Organizations, Educationalists and all other stake-holders to chalk out programmes for giving counselling taking the Educational Institutions as a unit. The volunteers appointed by the Committee must take up the work of counselling to students as a mission. They should earmark dedicated telephone numbers, so as to enable those who are in need of counselling and their parents to approach the volunteers for timely help. vi. The Government must issue advisories periodically to the youth and students in particular underlining the ill effects of this game and the facilities available to come out of this dangerous game. vii. The Superintendent of Police, Madurai Rural shall forthwith transmit the digital equipments seized in connection with the suicide of Vicky @ Vignesh to CERT-In for forensic analysis. viii. Those who are providing links and promoting this dangerous game even after its ban must be prosecuted by invoking the relevant provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000 and Indian Penal Code. ix. The Press and Media also owe a duty to the Society by reporting the measures taken by the Government and other Agencies for counselling and appeal to the youth not to try this game on any account. CONCLUDING REMARKS: 27. Internet is intended to connect the individual with the world at large. Citizens have become netizens. But even as we connect, we tend to get alienated also. There are negative as well as perverse tendencies inherent in any human being. The online phenomena such as Blue Whale game, bring this out. There are sharks on the prowl ready to prey and pounce upon the innocent and unwary victims. Protecting the Society is the joint responsibility of the service providers, the content providers, the Law makers, the Society, the family and the Community at large, and of course, the users of internet themselves. Courts cannot remain mute spectators when faced with such a social menace. Hence we have issued the aforementioned directions in larger public interest. 28. The Writ Petition is disposed of with the above directions. No costs.
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