The University of Chandigarh video leak case has sparked the MMS controversies again. Since 2004, India has witnessed many MMS scandals. It’s a grim reminder of how the internet can be misused to the extent that it can ruin people’s lives.
It was December 9, 2004, when the nation was first introduced to the phrase ‘MMS Scandal.’ A 2 minute 37 second video was being sold on a website by two Delhi Public School (DPS) students RK Puram. The report was exclusively covered by journalist Anupam Thapa, a tabloid named TODAY (part of India Today). In its report, Thapa alleged that a website named Baazee.com was selling pornographic clips of DPS students. The report read, “India’s largest e-commerce portal baazee.com had listed the said MMS clip as ‘DPS girls having fun’ with member ID 27877408.”
At that time, Baazee.com was a famous website selling products online. Although India is still in tune with the online world, reports of MMS clips being sold online have gone viral instantly. The clip was pixelated and grainy, and it was obvious whoever recorded it was using a low-res camera phone. It was also apparent that the girl being recorded may not have been aware that the boy was recording the sex act. Both students were Class XI at the time.
According to the details of the Avnish Bajaj versus State case, the clip was sold for Rs 125 on the baazee.com website. Avnish Bajaj was the owner of Baazee.com India Private Limited (“bipl”), which was a wholly owned subsidiary of Ebay Inc. USA, and the owner of the website http://www.baazee.com. The company was later renamed eBay India Private Limited (EIPL).
How the clip went viral online and offline
A fourth-year student from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, identified as Ravi Raj, was behind the initial sale of the clip. He had placed it on the auction site on November 27, 2004, at a price of Rs 125 per piece. He used the name Alice Electronics with an address of Kharagpur.
To avoid being detected by baazee.com’s filters, he placed it in the Books and Magazines category and in the “e-books” subcategory. Although the words “sex” and “sexual” were part of the list of “suspicious words”, the list passed the system and was uploaded with the description “Item 27877408 – DPS Girls having fun!!! full video + Baazee points”.
How baazee.com failed to detect the nature of the clip
According to the court documents, there was a system in place that notified the website moderators of a new listing. The moderators, who were employees of the company, were supposed to call the user and confirm the registration. However, this was only for new sellers. Former sellers could list products without getting a call from moderators. In the case of older sellers, there was a system in place that checked item information and approved or disapproved based on metadata provided by the seller. In this case, Ravi managed to fool the automated system.
On November 27, 2004, Community Watch member Amit Vohra sent an email to baazee.com titled “Fraud Report Regarding Item ID 27877408”. In her email, Vohra informed baazee.com that the product listed on the website was an illegal porn video in India. Additionally, the people shown in the video were under the legal age of 18, making it a serious offense. He wrote: “You need to address this issue, and you should even report it to the legal authorities because it can cause problems for your site.
The email was flagged to BIPL official Namrata on the same day. The following day, November 28, 2004, the email was attributed to Swapna Sawant and categorized as “high alert”. On November 29, 2004, baazee.com removed the video from the listing and emailed the seller saying, “The ads you posted on the site are obscene or pornographic in nature.” He has further been informed that the listed item has been removed in accordance with the user agreement.
A letter was also sent to Amit Vohra, thanking him for the email reporting the article in question. However, eight transactions have been made so far from cities including Calcutta, Nellore, Pune, Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai.
On December 9, 2004, the Delhi Police Criminal Branch received credible information about the sale on the auction website and registered the FIR in the case. On the same day, the report in TODAY was published under the title “DPS sex video at baazee.com”. The report said, “India’s largest e-commerce portal, baazee.com, had listed said MMS clip as ‘DPS girls having fun’ with member ID 27877408. Police, after investigating , learned that an Alice Electronics of Kharagpur West Bengal had since November 27, 2004, sold eight copies of said MMS clip.
A CrPC Section 91 notice was sent to Sharat Digumarti, Senior Director, Trust and Safety, BIPL, also a defendant in the case, seeking information about the vendor. The information was provided to the police the following day by baazee.com. Digumarti, in response to the notice, said the listing was deactivated immediately upon receiving the information about it.
In the investigation report, police said the three defendants, Avnish Bajaj, Ravi Raj and Sharat Digumarti were aware of the nature of the video and proceeded with the sale. An indictment against them has been prepared under Sections 292 and 294 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 67 of the Computers Act.
The case is still pending.
Some reports suggest that the two students who were in the video were suspended from school. The girl was sent to London, and the boy was sent to Australia by his parents. Their fate is unknown. Ever since MMS went viral on the internet, the way Indians and the law look at pornography has changed.
The MMS scandal has also been picked up by Bollywood and the television industry. Movies such as Dev D, Love Sex aur Dhoka, Ragini MMS and I Don’t Luv You are among the movies that have incidents loosely based on the DPS MMS scandal. The detective series “Gumrah: End of Innocence” also featured an episode about the incident.
It is impossible to completely remove something from the internet
Since the DPS MMS, several MMS scandals have surfaced on the internet, but none of them caused a stir in the country like the DPS case did. When MMS was first launched, the number of internet users in India was very limited. Those who are aware of the case know that the clip was sold on CD for a price ranging from Rs 50 to Rs 250, depending on the locality. Even in remote areas, people were able to get their hands on the clip because the case had made headlines.
At that time, some adult forums widely shared the clip. Although the police and the law tried to remove the clip from the majority of famous porn websites, and it is now difficult to find the clip on “popular” porn websites, experts believe the clip could still being available on low rank porn. websites. The DPS case is a classic and sad but perfect example of the fact that once something is available on the Internet, it stays there forever.
Please note that downloading, sending, selling and buying pornography in India is illegal and punishable according to law.