The CBI on Tuesday started a coordinated search operation at 76 locations in 14 states against 83 people who were allegedly involved in sexual abuse of children and posting and circulating abuse material on the webspace, officials said. The central agency registered 23 separate cases on November 14 against 83 people allegedly involved in online child sexual abuse and exploitation, they said.
Searches were conducted in Andhra Pradesh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Bihar, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Himachal Pradesh, CBI spokesperson RC Joshi said. These searches were conducted by CBIās special unit āOnline Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention or Investigation (OCSAE)ā to probe cases of online child sexual abuse and exploitation.
āIt was alleged that various syndicates of individuals based in different parts of India and foreign countries were indulging in circulating, storing and viewing child sexual exploitation material (CSEM) through various social media platforms/groups. It was also alleged that persons were disseminating CSEM by way of sharing links, videos, pictures, texts, posts and hosting of such content on social media groups/platforms and third-party storage/hosting platforms,ā the CBI said in a statement.
The operation started on November 14, i.e. children's day, with the registration of 23 separate FIRs against 83 accused which continued till the next day. The FIRs were based on inputs provided by a special CBI unit, Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Prevention/ Investigation (OCSAE), which tracks and monitors posting, circulation and downloads of CSEM on the Internet.
CBI said that a number of electronic gadgets, mobiles and laptops have been recovered during searches and that it has been revealed that some individuals were involved in trading of such material.
āAs per initial information collected, there are more than 50 groups having more than 5,000 offenders sharing child sexual abuse material. Many of these groups also have involvement of foreign nationals. It is initially learnt that there may be involvement of nationals of around 100 countries spread across various continents. CBI is coordinating with sister agencies through formal and informal channels,ā the central agency said, adding that investigation is underway.
Some accused based in countries like Pakistan, Canada, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Indonesia, Azerbaijan, Sri Lanka, the US, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Egypt and the UK.
"Many of these groups also have involvement of foreign nationals. It was initially learnt that there may be involvement of nationals of around 100 countries... The CBI is coordinating with sister agencies through formal and informal channels. Searches and development of further leads is underway and the investigation is continuing," CBI Spokesperson RC Joshi said.
The FIRs have been filed against 83 people under Section 120B (punishment for criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 67B (Punishment for publishing or transmitting of material depicting children in sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form) of the Information Technology Act, 2000.
The searches were spread across Tirupati and Kanekal in Andhra Pradesh; Delhi; Konch Jalaun, Mau, Chandauli, Varanasi, Ghazipur, Siddharthanagar, Moradabad, Noida, Jhansi, Ghaziabad, Muzaffarnagar in UP; Junagarh, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar in Gujarat. They were also carried out in Sangrur, Malerkotla, Hoshiarpur, Patiala in Punjab; Patna, Siwan in Bihar; Yamuna Nagar, Panipat, Sirsa, Hisar in Haryana; Bhadrak, Jajapur, Dhenkanal in Odisha; Tiruvalure, Coimbatore, Namkkal, Salem and Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu. The searches were also held in Ajmer, Jaipur, Jhunjhunu and Nagaur in Rajasthan; Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh; Jalgaon, Salwad and Dhule in Maharashtra; Korba in Chhattisgarh and Solan in Himachal Pradesh, Joshi said.