EFFECT ON CRIME AMIDST AND POST THE ERA OF COVID-19 LOCKDOWN by-Sukriti Verma
“The pandemic is not the license to commit crimes, whoever it may be.” Despite the fatal contagious virus being all around, the criminals don’t fail to commit crimes. And despite the various laws we have to punish these crimes, it is not surprising to see that they try to create new ways to outwit the laws every now and then. They have never stopped doing such unlawful acts at different fronts. The covid-19 lockdown being one such another vulnerable time. When the front-line workers were trying to protect us, and when there was a complete lockdown amidst that the criminals were taking advantage of that situation and exploiting the general public.
There can exist no harmony in an environment stuffed with crimes, be it against human body or other crimes, such as being sold counterfeited products. Knowingly or unknowingly all nations and all of us too have gone through such kind of acts during the pandemic. Health care workers, women, &children, nobody has been spared from these crimes. Everyone has a right to be protected all the crimes. Right to life and that too with personal liberty is guaranteed by Article 21 of the constitution of India.
Keywords: Law of Crimes, IPC, Covid-19 pandemic.
1 6TH SEMESTER STUDENT AT VIVEKANANDA SCHOOL OF LAW & LEGAL STUDIES.
This research paper will mainly deal with the effect on the intensity of crime due to the novel coronavirus; it will try to cover the various types of crimes that have vigorously increased and the new types of crimes that have emerged.
The novel coronavirus hit China on 17th November 2019, and the first death due to the virus was recorded on 9th January 2020 in Wuhan, China. The virus stepped foot in India on the 30th of January 2020 in Thrissur, Kerala. This later spread in the whole country, due to this unprecedented crisis the government had to intensify its efforts to control the pandemic leading to a 21-day total lockdown in the country which started on 25th March 2020. The institutional and governmental response to the pandemic and the consequent reshaping of socio-economic norms across the globe will affect the criminal’s networks and the way they operate, as well as the methods to combat them. However, the criminals were also locked inside their homes and were unable to do the crimes on the field. It seems clear that this restriction has become a reason for the fallout in criminal activities, simultaneously generating new opportunities for home-based and online criminal content.
Handcuffing the public movement and the sealing of borders have had an immediate impact on most vicious criminal acts, which have taken the speed of a horse wagon as compared to an F1 racing car or have even stopped. But, at the same time and in the corresponding proportion, there have been emerging criminal groups who have exploited the vulnerability, dilemmatic state, and uncertainty and took advantage of new demand for illicit goods and services. Criminal opportunism has emerged further as the crisis unfolded to an unlocked state. The health services have been exploited and people and countries have been looted in the name of safety and precautions, either by selling fake or used equipment or by hiking the prices.
This paper will try to cite some of such infamous cases of hyperactive criminal minds that have been molded and bent to extract and exploit most of the common public in such difficult times of the pandemic.
POSITIVE IMPACTS ON CRIME
Crime rates have plummeted amid the coronavirus pandemic, as the virus drove 1.3 billion residents to stay inside their homes. The crimes like kidnapping, murder, rape, rioting, robbery,
dacoity, etc., the crimes that needed some sort of outside and isolated atmosphere, or the crimes that used to happen in workplaces have plunged. Stay-at-home orders have closed huge swaths of Main Street and pushed people out of traditional crime hot spots, such as metro, buses, streets, shopping complexes, car parking, bars, clubs, social events, and places.
Following are some extracts and pieces of evidence from newspapers that establish some grounds that proves the decrement of certain crimes:
There was not one single case of chain snatching in Mumbai. In April, the 94 police stations located across the city of Mumbai didn’t even report a single case of chain snatching, and dacoity which was perennially a headache for the police. The number of robberies in Mumbai dropped from 80 in February to 17 in April. Also, the theft cases dropped to 34 from 483 from April to February respectively. In such cases, the accused takes advantage of the crowd and flees away from the victim post the theft, the absence of such a crowd is clearly indicative of the reason.
Whereas in Bihar, there is a decrease of 63% in the number of thefts , 49% in burglaries, 56% in robberies, 61% in murders , 88% in kidnappings , 77% in rioting , and 64% in crimes against women. Delhi saw a 56% drop in street related crimes till May this year when compared to the corresponding year of 2019. The official Delhi Police website states that till May in 2019, more than 964 cases of robbery were committed, whereas in 2020 only 596 cases were registered. Similarly, in snatching cases, the number has decreased from 2,811 cases last year to 2,141 in 2020. Police have also reported an exponential decline in cases of crime against women in Delhi. Rape cases have reduced from 891 until May 2019 to 520 in 2020. Besides, there has also been a 50% decline in cases of sexual harassment and assault.2
There was also a decline in the number of accidents has dropped in Delhi during the lockdown period. Police reported only 348 fatal accidents, nearly half the number recorded in the corresponding period last year.
Kerala recorded a 40% fall in murder cases in the period between 25th March and 14th April i.e. in the initial of lockdown as compared to the same period last year. Mr. Karunakaran, deputy
2Delhi lockdown: Sharp fall in incidents of street crime, but police data reveals bigger worry, available at Delhi lockdown: Sharp fall in incidents of street crime, but police data reveals bigger worry – The Financial Express ( last modified June 29, 2020)
superintendent at the state crime records bureau in Thiruvananthapuram, says there were a 70% fall in rape cases and a 100% fall in cases of violence against women and children.
Mr. Karunakaran said the figures for the road accidents fell to 105 from 1787 last year, figures of murders fell to 8 from 13, missing cases fell to 132 from 851, suicides fell to 192 from 445 and unnatural deaths declined down to 630 from 1052 during the same period in 2019.
According to the report, hospitals in Bengaluru saw a sharp decrease in trauma cases. The national daily asked Dr. Jagadish Hiremath, managing director of ACE Suhas Hospital in Bengaluru, who said, since they were situated in the Jigani industrial area, they used to receive a minimum of 10 minor industrial accidents per week. They also used to get those injured in major road accidents. But, since mid of March, there have been no admissions with such complaints.
Figures from the northeastern states such asAssam, Tripura, and Manipur reported similar runs with fewer people comingto hospitals. To quote the numbers, GB Panth Hospital in Tripura used to get almost 1200 to 1500 patients on a usual day but this number fell to 600-650.
In the Nagaon district in Assam, the crimes like highway robbery, drug smuggling, money snatching, and murders have all decreased. According to the SP, road accidents have reduced by 7% to 10% in the district since the lockdown had come into effect. Imphal West district in Manipur reported zero FIRs of murder, assault or accidents in the phase of lockdown. Telangana recorded 60%drop-in crime rate during the initial lockdown.According to the numbers, the state registered 16,942 cases during 22nd March and 22nd April in 2019. This number came down to only 6,923 in the same period.3
Speaking of the other countries, the USA Police logged dramatically fewer calls for service, crime incidents, and arrests in the last two weeks of March than each of the previous six weeks an analysis found. The analysis is one of the largest studies which measured the impact of the coronavirus on crime and policing.
3 Lockdown upside: India records significant drop in deaths, crime, says report available at https://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/lockdown-upside-india-records-significant-drop-in-deaths-crime-says- report/1944434/(last modified 30 April, 2020)
The USA police also reported massive drops in traffic and person stops – as 92% in few jurisdictions which consequently helped drive sharp declines in drug offenses and DUIs. Thefts and residential burglaries decreased as fewer stores open and lesser homes unoccupied, also agencies logged fewer assaults and robberies. Bookings into each of almost two dozen county jails observed by the news organization fell by at least a quarter since February.
NEGATIVE IMPACTS ON CRIME
Further going deep into the study of crime, we will try to define different types of crimes that have risen and the reason of those with qualified statistical data and numbers.
In the later phase of the lockdown, companies and local employers faced economic issues as to lower or no revenues being generated, some businesses ceased to operate because of the lockdown, institutions and shopping complexes, restaurants, construction work, all were shut down, people kicked out their workers, servants out of service. According to a rapid assessment survey by Jan Sahas, nearly 92.5% of the laborers lost one to three weeks of work, this survey was conducted out of 3,196 migrant workers, and it covered the areas of northern and central India between 27 March 2020 and 29 March 2020. Due to this many people got unemployed, homeless and reluctant to commit theft, robbery, dacoity etc., for the means of their livelihood. Also, many homeless communities are so badly hit that it is pushing the man in need further into the grips of alcohol and drug abuse. Youth unions in the UK have warned that the closure of elementary and high schools and community centers might have young people placed on the peripheries of crime as they will have a greater risk of getting recruited by criminal groups and gangs, as tackling boredom and the social constraints of lockdown isn’t an easy task. In this time, monitoring children and youth, and building preventive measures in these vulnerable communities became increasingly difficult when teachers, community guiders, social work enthusiasts, and other sources of outreach are also confined indoors.
If one was to decriminalize the petty offense of theft on the basis of theory of criminology. This would fall under the survival crime theory. Would it be justified to steal a loaf of bread to feed your family?
As per section 371 of the IPC, whoever, intending to take dishonestly any moveable property out of the possession of any person without that person’s consent, moves that property in order to such dishonest taking, is said to commit theft. The Latin maxim, “actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea”, which says in order to make a person liable for the offence, we would have to prove mens rea- the intention and the actus reus- the act committed. Herein the intention to steal can be clearly seen but whether the intention was dishonest or not is debatable. To claim a defense under the survival crime theory one needs to prove two things firstly that the crime is a low-level crime that is committed by a destitute and secondly that there was a necessity to commit the crime.
Crimes Inside Homes:
Also, there was a substantial increase in the crimes inside homes, domestic violence, dowry deaths, and molestation cases the main reasons for this that: firstly members of a joint family were forced to live together when they migrated came to their villages and towns, secondly as families are spending more and more time together, the number of disputes risen as there more severe conversations, discussions, people get to know more about themselves, their secrets, their habits, their lifestyle, as all comes to unfold, thirdly the frustration of being locked inside their homes also leads them to be violent, fourthly human trafficking victims are kept isolated, both physically and emotionally, which is a key strategy for traffickers to control their victims. This has been significantly easier in lockdown situations, whereby the victims are unable to escape abusive circumstances, and behind closed doors, they may be exposed to more extreme forms of abuse. Workers of domestic servitude who are shut in with their employers, unable to access police or social services, maybe further victimized by physical or sexual abuse.
According to the Blue Dragon project, which particularly aims to reduce instances of human trafficking in the state of Vietnam, and which is also supported by the GI-TOC’s Resilience Fund, the school shut down might have ultimately led to an upgrade in human-trafficking cases because the absence of subsidized school meals and as the economic damage caused by the pandemic became more pronounced, the economic burden on families is enormous to bear.
Consequently, more children may be forced into child labor or early marriage. Furthermore, it’s stated that in South East Asia, poor children, who are working and who are not sent to school, to be at far greater risk of being used for child sexual exploitation online, including for live sex acts. As families look
Into alternative forms of income, forcing their children into this growing online vacuum may be one possibility.4
Also, as the attention of police forces and the policymakers is diverted elsewhere to control the pandemic and establish stay at home order, some criminal groups quickly used this opportunity and scaled up their activities.
Now we will examine such instances where homebound-ness has led to an increase in crime:
Crimes against Women:
There was a rise in crimes against women in March-May across Kerala.According to statistics available with The New Indian Express, more than 1,500 cases of crimes against women were reported in the state in the period ofMarch 24 and May 30. After going to more details of it, it was disturbing to see that a total of 64 rape cases and 38 dowry deaths were included in the data.
The statistics further pointed that more than 716 molestation cases, 176 cases of cruelty and 215 cybercrimes against women were reported in April and May. Reportedly, there were more than 120 cases of attempt to murder against women during the lockdown, which is high when compared to the cases last year in the same period.
Still many cases remain unreported, and many stones unturned. “There will be plenty more cases as women faced multiple threats while attempted to report such cases either from their houses or from their locality,”
There was something unexpected reported by the Police data which, reveals that there was not much deviation in the numbers of cases of heinous crimes such as dacoity, murder, kidnapping and attempt to murder till May when compared to the last year.As the lockdown started to unfold
4 Lucia Bird, “Crime and Contagion”, Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, 11, 2020.
Police noted cases of heinous crimes have slowly begun to increase as more and more markets and public places are opening up.5
As far as the homebound crimes in the USA are concerned, police have received calls for domestic disturbances and violence increased by 10% to 30% among many police agencies that contributed data.
Violating Lockdown Norms:
Another type of crime or violation that has come is people violating lockdown norms or rules of social distancing. Police had issued challans to those who were not wearing masks or even spitting in public places. Till May they issued more than 16,708 challans to such violators,”6 Public Nuisance Complaints:
Increased public nuisance complaints such as loud noise from parties. For example, the Baltimore Police Department had received 362 extra loud-music complaints in the last 2 weeks of March, nearly matching its total of February itself. Crime against the Health Care Workers:
Another unexpected unreasonable crime that has been reported is the crime against the essential health care workers. It is rather a shame on our society to such crime instances; it was highly unlikely to see such types of crime because in the end what we can least expect a person is to perform an act of humanity against someone who is selflessly devoting his life for you. Also our key workers are vulnerable to assaults as they travel between places of work and their homes. With limited services operating and fewer police officials present across the streets & gallery paths to protect them, the risk is higher and eventually grows as criminals gain more and more courage to perform such acts, which include:
To cite some of such incidents we can trace back the incident from Hyderabad when some people from a Muslim society attacked the health care workers when they came to test them as to they are corona positive or negative. They were on their usual round to detect suspected cases. They
5Delhi lockdown: Sharp fall in incidents of street crime, but police data reveals bigger worry available at https://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/crime-rate-in-delhi-2020-lockdown-rape-cases-crime-against-women- delhi-police/2007305/( last modified 29 June, 2020)
6Delhi lockdown: Sharp fall in incidents of street crime, but police data reveals bigger worryavailable at https://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/crime-rate-in-delhi-2020-lockdown-rape-cases-crime-against-women- delhi-police/2007305/ ( last modified 29 June, 2020)
were attacked with stones being thrown at them, people spitting on them, tearing away their PPE kits.
Meanwhile, a hospital in the north of Ghaziabad also witnessed unruly scenes on Thursday, where a female nurse and some other staff members were abused with vulgar language by the quarantined attendees. It was reported that the attendees were walking naked across the hospital ward and making immoral comments against the female doctors.7
There was a similar incident whereby the quarantined attendees from the Tablighi Jamaat spat on the authority members of the railway who were taking care of the medical facility. Although new laws have been made by legislation which gives the police greater powers against those who cough or spit on them and it is certain that this threat will rise.8
Misuse of Quarantine Facilities:
Misuse of quarantine facilities by the police to contain or keep away some eminent and important officials to hide their own mischievous act from getting disclosed like in the investigation case of suicide of Sushant Singh Rajput, the Mumbai police quarantined an IPS officer from Bihar without any reason, he wasn’t showing any symptoms and also had tested negative for covid-19. Similar writ was filed in the case of Mahendra Singh Versus Commissioner of Police and Others, decided on May 5, 2020. Wherein Mr. K. Narayanan was the President of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), Mumbai District Committee, hewas quarantined by the police officers of D. N. Nagar Police Station because he had a dispute witha Sub Inspector there. His mobile phone was also taken away from him, even after he tested negative for the virusat the beginning itself, he was quarantined beyond a period of 14 days. This clearly showed the misuse of power by the police officials for their owninterest and benefits based on false accusations.9
The crime of exploiting people and taking undue advantage of their needs – price gouging:This majorly violates the fundamental right of right to life under article 21 of the constitution of India.
7Coronavirus: India doctors ‘spat at and attacked’ available athttps://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-52151141 (last modified April 3, 2020)
8Crime and Corona available at https://www.bcu.ac.uk/social-sciences/news/blogs/crime-and-corona(last modified 2020)
9Mahendra Singh v.Commissioner of Police retrieved from http://www.scconline.com/DocumentLink/mF83zkhW
Whereby, the Telangana HC says to act tougher on sellers who are hiking the prices of essential commodities.10
In the case of Shashank Deo Sudhi v. Union of India,11 the petitioner filed a writ petition under Article 32 of the constitution, under PIL, which seeks the free of cost testing facility of COVID-
19. At this time the private labs were charging a price of Rs.4500/- for screening and confirming COVID-19 as fixed by the Indian Council of Medical Research Department of Health Research on stated by an advisory dated 17-3-2020.
The petitioner also prayed that a direction should be issued that all the tests relating to COVID-19 must be carried out under NABL accredited labs or any agencies approved by WHO or ICMR. Prima facie substance submitted by the petitioner that at the time of national calamity, permitted
private testing labs to charge as high as Rs 4500 for screening and confirmation of COVID-19 is
out of reach and means ofa considerately large part of the population of the country and henceanyone should not be deprived of undergoing the COVID-19 test due to insufficiency of an unreasonable amount of fund of Rs 4500/, some people don’t even earn this much on the whole year.
The court said that the private hospitals including laboratories have an important role as equal to government ones in containing the scale of the pandemic by services in the crucial hour of the national crisis. Whether the private laboratories carrying free of cost COVID-19 tests will be entitled to any reimbursement of expenses incurred shall be considered afterward. It was made necessary that the tests relating to COVID-19 to be carried out in NABL accredited labs or by any agency approved by WHO or ICMR, and such tests should be free of cost.
The IPC prescribesa severe punishment for an aggravated type of spreading the contagious disease. Section 271 and 278 of the IPC defines an offense which is a malignant act to spread the infection of the disease, dangerous to life-
Sec 271: Whoever knowingly disobeys any rule made and promulgated for putting any vessel into a state of quarantine, or for regulating the intercourse of vessels in a state of quarantine with the shore or with other vessels, or for regulating the intercourse between places where an
10Act tough on sellers hiking prices of essentials: HC tells Telangana govt available at https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/2020/may/09/act-tough-on-sellers-hiking-prices-of-essentials- hc-tells-telangana-govt-2140999.html ( last modified on May 9, 2020)
11SCC 132 : 2020 SCC Online SC 358 pg. 133
infectious disease prevails and other places, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.
Section 278: Making atmosphere noxious to health.—whoever voluntarily vitiates the atmosphere in any place to make it noxious to the health of persons in general dwelling or carrying on business in the neighborhood or passing along a public way, shall be punished with fine which may extend to five hundred rupees.
An FIR was lodged against Singer Kanika Kapoor for irresponsibly mixing up with celebrities without taking care of quarantine regulations after returning from London. Similarly, Tablighi Jamaat’s chief, Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, were booked after 39 deaths were reported after the religious gathering.
Counterfeit Medical Products:
Organized-crime groups, or local groupings of highly centralized enterprises run by criminals to engage in illegal activity, most commonly for profit or political purposes or to in support of some political party or leader.These groups which have long embedded roots in the health sector have quickly seized opportunities to exploit the sector.The sale of counterfeited medical products boosted since the outbreak, so have the incidents of crimes like smuggling and theft of medical supplies.
A counterfeit product is the one that uses the name of established and popular brands, which affixes other’s registered trademark or a deceptively similar trademark to intentionally deceive the customers to buy them. Such unauthorized products are made to gain illegal profit and to exploit the general public. Such an offense is punishable under section (480)12, (481)13, (482)14, (486)15, (487)16, (488)17with an imprisonment of 1 or 3 years or with fine or both. We have seen such incidents where the sale of counterfeit products especially PPE kits has risen in the past few months. As we know personal protective equipment is the essence of safety for the health care
12Indian Penal Code, 1860(Act 45 of 1860), s.480. 13Indian Penal Code, 1860(Act 45 of 1860), s.481. 14Indian Penal Code, 1860(Act 45 of 1860), s.482. 15 Indian Penal Code, 1860(Act 45 of 1860), s.486.
16Indian Penal Code, 1860(Act 45 of 1860), s.486.
workers and was in high demand in the pandemic, criminals have taken this opportunity to make a profit. In March 2020, when the WHO was reporting a global shortage of PPEs, India had to import all of its essential medical wear and gear when there wasn’t any local manufacturing. However, within a span of one month, India had managed to ramp up production to 30,000 units a day by roping in local private players and also by contributions from government agencies including the Indian Railways by the beginning of April.18
It was reported that around 63,000 Chinese-manufactured PPE kits did not meet the specified Indian standard criteria, sourced by Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry. These PPE kits were sent to the Defense Research and Development Establishment (DRDE), Gwalior, for qualitychecking, which consisted of masks, eye shields, shoe covers, gowns, and gloves.19
Apart from crimes being committed physically, there were crimes being committed online also. It meant that the sections of the IT Act were attracted. Some of the emerging acts of cyber-crime and how criminals try to do them is discussed below.
EMERGING ACTS OF CYBERCRIME
How do the criminals exploit the general public online?
Firstly, they exploit the fear among the general public and their search for information related to this pandemic, and secondly, as more and more companies across the globe have taken up the ‘work from home’ which exposes them to threats makes them vulnerable online.
18 Priya Adlakha andSanjana Kala, “Rise of Counterfeit PPE in India amid COVID-19” available at
19 E-paper of 17 Apr 2020 retrieved from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/63000-ppe- kits-arrived-from-china-are-faulty-and-fail-quality-test-health-ministry-sources/videoshow/75206708.cms
The fear of the general public is exploited by the reason that everybody is locked inside of their homes amidst this lockdown is trying to stay on top of important information related to coronavirus, and is trying to keep a track of the progress of the vaccine and thenumber of cases, in order to remain safe and away from the infected people. The makers of malware are using this to their advantage.
An example of one such app which was available on the Google Play Store is “corona live 1.1”, which was claiming to be a live tracker of cases of Coronavirus. But we know it’s quite next to impossible to do that. The people using the app thought that they were keeping live track of the pandemic and number of cases, but the malicious app was actually invading people’s privacy and getting access to their device’s photos, videos, location, and camera.
The information collected is used in various ways, they can be used to compromise your bank accounts (hacking)20 or even blackmail21 the owner of the pictures and videos.
The Android Playstore removed many such malicious apps and categorized many other apps into the ‘sensitive events’ category. Such apps have now shifted to websites, one such being “coronavirusapp.site”, where the link to download the app is available.
Exploiting the ‘Work from Home’:
Criminals have been exploiting the ‘work from home’ policies because every organization, either big or small, is compelled to work remotely from home. This hasled to an increase in security risk as the organizational data is vulnerably accessed from laptops and home PCs that do not have the same level of firewall and security as an in-office setup. One such specific type is known as Business e-mail compromise (BEC) scams which are a form of low-tech financial fraud in which emails from CEOs, suppliers, or other trusted sources are sent to the financial department or administrative staff asking them to transfer large money transfers. They try to extract larger amounts of money in a shorter period of time just because they target big corporates. With less physical contact between staff, administrative personnel is less inclined to check with the
20Information Technology Act, 2008(Act 10 of 2009), s.66.
21Indian Penal Code, 1860(Act 45 of 1860), s.503, s.506.
concerned management whether an order to pay a supplier or a subsidiary of the company, is genuine or not.22
There was an increase in the number of emails in the Junk Folder; reportedly scammers are sending 18 million hoax emails about Covid-19 to Gmail users every day.
Googlesays the pandemic has led to an elevation in the number of phishing attacks in which criminals trick users into giving away their personal data.The company said it was blocking more than 100 million phishing emails a day in April in which there was almost one-fifth of scam emails related to the coronavirusi.e., around 20 million per day.The virus became the biggest phishing topic ever, tech firms said.23These emails led the user to open the attachments, which are maliciously a fraud, and the moment it’s opened, the hacker will be able to access your and your colleague’s data as well.
There were more than 5,30,000 zoom accounts that were sold on the dark web because of the work from home guidelines there has been an unprecedented rise in desktop video conferencing, mostly via zoom. there was an emergence of a new practice called “zoom bombing,” in which more than half a million zoom credentials were put up for sale – at roughly a penny a login id as reported by site bleeping computer reports.24Therefore, leading to a black hole of cybercrime due to the coronavirus outbreak in India and worldwide.
At such times, the organizations should rely on the ISO/IEC 27000 family. The ISO/IEC 27000 is a global benchmark certificate given to the organizations which follow the Information Security Management System (ISMS). It provides improvements in the structure of the organizations, the ISMS safeguards the client’s confidential data from cyberattacks.25
22 Lucia Bird, “Crime and Contagion”, Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime, 09, 2020 23JoeTidy,“Google blocking 18m corona virus scam emails every day” (last modified April 17, 2020) retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-52319093
24David Gewirtz, “COVID cybercrime: 10 disturbing statistics to keep you awake tonight” (last modified September 14, 2020) retrieved from https://www.zdnet.com/article/ten-disturbing-coronavirus-related-cybercrime-statistics-to- keep-you-awake-tonight/
25 Priya Adlakha and Kiratraj Sadana, “India: Cyber Crime during Coronavirus Pandemic”.
On the digital platform, whereinthe criminal groups are already integrated into pharmaceutical and medicine supply systems and lines, and health sectors, the funds delegated to provide financial security, aid,and assistance against the threat of coronavirus can be diverged from their intended destination, slowing down the response to aid and ultimately costing lives.26
Live Child Sexual Exploitation:
The lockdown also has proved to be a boon to online sex industries: website Porn-Hub has already seen a huge lift in demand across the world, and offers premium membership free to gather more clients in huge number. Though it is a legal site, it creates a demand for new content because viewers have more time on their hands and it prompts criminal groups to forcefully coerce sex workers, drug users, or other similar vulnerable persons who do live and recorded sexual exploitation. Also, people with more deviant tastes use this extra time to reach out to sites that offer live child sexual exploitation (CSE), whereby there isalready an extraordinary supply developing as children are in their homes from school, as impoverished families look for new sources of income this exploitation is rising. Children who attend online classes, play games online, and use social media are the targets for such predators and are groomed by sexual predators, as they spend surplus time online.27 There was also a substantial increase in crime because the prisoners were left on parole, the same is discussed below.
Coronavirus Vaccine Fake App:
The government of India planned, the process of vaccination of the citizens through an online platform called CoWIN app. This guideline was issued by the govt. on 10th December 2020,but the launch date was in March, so a period of 4 months were in between. Criminals took this as an opportunity to exploit public looking forward to get the vaccine by inculcating fake portals such as websites and apps on the web, which were similar to the upcoming CoWIN app. There are around 6 such apps on the Playstore as of 8th December but soon there will be plenty of it. The
2663,000 PPE kits arrived from China faulty, failed quality test: Health Ministry sources (E-paper of 17 Apr 2020) available athttps://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/63000-ppe-kits-arrived-from-china-are- faulty-and-fail-quality-test-health-ministry-sources/videoshow/75206708.cms
27 Lucia Bird, “Crime and Contagion”, Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime, 08, 2020.
fake app provides no detail on the vaccination but just extracts the private data of the people using it, for the means of hacking, phishing, and blackmailing people. As people are very vulnerable to downloading these apps the thing to be relied on is the official government website (india.gov.in). And while downloading such apps people must look out for the manufacturing source of such apps for example the Aarogya Setu App’s authenticity is verified by its Manufacturer i.e., NIC e-Gov Mobile Apps, which is of the government of India. So, if the government launches CoWIN people must be checking for its manufacturer before downloading it to be safe from such threats. The health ministry also issued a guideline for the same that is to beware of such fake news and apps.
A major reason for the increase in crime during the corona period is the massive release of the prisoners from various prisons across the country:
PAROLE RELEASE- INCREASED CRIME
In New Delhi over 6,700 prisoners, were released either on interim bail or parole because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tihar jail housed over 18,000 prisonersand was the most populated prison across the country. There are three prison complexes under Tihar i.e., Tihar, Rohini, and Mandoli. In April, the jail authorities released around 2,800 prisoners who were under trial and were convicts who were on interim bail, and they were released on extended parole to reduce the population inside of the jail.
With thousands of prisoners living congested inside the jail, there was a high risk of the virus getting spread exponentially. The prisons in an overall count reported 20 cases of Covid-19, which included 17 prisoners and 3 jailors. After the release, none of the cases were detected in June.
Examples- On April 30, Balbir Sharma, a man with 36 cases of theft, robbery, and snatching registered against him was released from Tihar jail and five days later, he was again arrested for allegedly robbing a man of his cell phone and scooter.
Released on 29th April, Monu Sharma, a man with eight criminal cases, was also released for the same reason to decongest. Only 6 days later, on May 5, he was arrested for stealing an electric auto-rickshaw in east Delhi’s Geeta Colony.28
On the evening of 29th April, six men gathered at a green spot in Mehrauli for celebrating the parole of one of them. Later, two menwere shot dead. The police nabbed two of the four accused. One of those absconding was recently released to decongest overcrowded prisons.
On the 10th of June, one of the three accused who were arrested by the police for committing the crime of robbing a pilot near the IIT flyover located in South Delhi revealed that he was released on parole from Tihar jail in a similar decongestive drive.
Criminals were and still are taking advantage of covering their faces with masks. Hence, snatching becomes an easy crime to earn quick money for them.
Although, Of the 2,612 snatching cases, 1,579 were reported till April, and the remaining 1,033 registered from May 1 till June 15. Of these, 220 snatchings were reported from May 1st to mid- May, 342 from mid-May to 31st, and 471 cases from June start to mid-June.
The police, however, said that the numbers are lesser when compared to the corresponding period of the previous year. “There is a decline of 33 percent incidents in our jurisdiction as compared to the last year where 330 snatching cases were reported till July 13,” said Atul Kumar Thakur, DCP (South).29
CONCLUSION & SUGGESTIONS
It can be concluded that the pandemic has generated new opportunities for the criminal to commit new types of crime, ranging from various types of thefts, and cybercrime, and how can we forget the crime inside homes. The pandemic left the public at large vulnerable to these threats. Therefore the need for new laws arise and a course of action in order to control.
28Prisoners freed to decongest Tihar return to crime, available at https://www.hindustantimes.com/india- news/prisoners-freed-to-decongest-tihar-return-to-crime/story-KuyfNbrmi9f9J2wx9eW75N.html(last modified on Jun 11, 2020)
29Coronavirus: Released on parole, criminals get back in action, crime surges,available athttps://www.indiatoday.in/mail- today/story/coronavirus-released-on-parole-criminals-get-back-action-crime-surges-1702067-2020-07-19(last modified on July 19, 2020)
Suggestions would be inculcating such laws that can stop the exploitation of the general public. Strict laws for cybercrime i.e. maybe more severe punishment in the same existing clauses of the IT Act, such as punishment for hacking, phishing, etc. specified in section 66 depending upon the nature of the crime. Tracking such criminals is also a challenge for the police. Although there are cyber cells across the country, it’s not sufficient when compared to the number of cyber-crimes recorded, hence it calls for more trained cyber officials and cyber police stationsto make the solving of such cases more efficient. And the law must ensure that once these criminals are caught they shouldn’t be let go of, without being punished because once they are out they repeat the similar again.
Also, there is a need to track down the cases of domestic violence, as 86% percent of these cases aren’t registered. Surveys are conducted by ASHA workers and health care workers for tracking corona cases at the time of the lockdown, the same set of people can be used to ask about domestic violence simultaneously. There is also a need for specially assigned protection officers given under the protection of women from domestic acts, 2005; but due to insufficient funds, there are not specially delegated protection officers for protection officers, even if they are there, they are overburdened.
Andthere is a need for a completely new law for exploitation of healthcare workers, smuggling and distribution of fake PPE kits, a special type of law for spreading fake news around which in turn creates a lot of panic for example the fake news of trains getting to start at the beginning of the lockdown created a lot of hot-porch.
1. Indian Penal Court, 1860(Act 45 of 1860)
2. Information Technology Act, 2008(Act 10 of 2009) Secondary sources:
1. Lucia Bird, “Crime and Contagion”, Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime.
1. Article byPriya Adlakha and Sanjana Kala from, https://www.lexology.com/library/detail.aspx?g=7d70a1e4-85b7-4246-ab69- ba9aad3bce96
2. Article by Joe Tidy fromhttps://www.bbc.com/news/technology-52319093
3. Article by David Gewirtz https://www.zdnet.com/article/ten-disturbing-coronavirus- related-cybercrime-statistics-to-keep-you-awake-tonight/
4. Priya Adlakha and Kiratraj Sadana, “India: Cyber Crime during Coronavirus Pandemic”.
• News reports:
1. HINDUSTAN TIMES – https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/prisoners-freed-to- decongest-tihar-return-to-crime/story-KuyfNbrmi9f9J2wx9eW75N.html
2. INDIA TODAY- https://www.indiatoday.in/mail-today/story/coronavirus-released-on- parole-criminals-get-back-action-crime-surges-1702067-2020-07-19
3. ECONOMIC TIMES- https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and- nation/63000-ppe-kits-arrived-from-china-are-faulty-and-fail-quality-test-health- ministry-sources/videoshow/75206708.cms
4. USA TODAY, “Crime rates plummet amid the corona virus pandemic, but not everyone is safer in their home”.
6. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/63000-ppe-kits-arrived- from-china-are-faulty-and-fail-quality-test-health-ministry- sources/videoshow/75206708.cms
9. https://www.newindianexpress.com/states/telangana/2020/may/09/act-tough-on-sellers- hiking-prices-of-essentials-hc-tells-telangana-govt-2140999.html
10. https://criminallawstudiesnluj.wordpress.com/2020/05/31/covid-19-xvi-survival-crime-in- the-time-of-coronavirus/
11. https://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/crime-rate-in-delhi-2020-lockdown-rape- cases-crime-against-women-delhi-police/2007305/
12. https://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/crime-rate-in-delhi-2020-lockdown-rape- cases-crime-against-women-delhi-police/2007305/
13. https://www.ideasforindia.in/topics/miscellany/covid-19-lockdown-and-criminal-activity- evidence-from-bihar.html
14. The Financial Express-
15. a)Delhi lockdown: Sharp fall in incidents of street crime, but police data reveals bigger worry – The Financial Express
b) https://www.financialexpress.com/india-news/lockdown-upside-india-records- significant-drop-in-deaths-crime-says-report/1944434/
16. https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/pm-announces-21-day-lockdown-as-covid-19- toll-touches-10/article31156691.ece
17. https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/kerala-reports-first-confirmed-novel-coronavirus- case-in-india-1641593-2020-01-30
18. https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/first-covid-19-case- can-be-traced-back-to-november-2017-in-chinas-hubei-province- report/articleshow/74608199.cms
2. SCC 132: 2020 SCC Online SC 358 pg. 133