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DPS MMS Scandal: India’s first MMS scandal where a video of 2 students was sold online

On December 9, 2004, the Crime Branch of Delhi police received credible information about the sale on the auction website and registered FIR in the matter. On the same day, the report in TODAY was published with the title "DPS sex video at baazee.com."

The Chandigarh University video leak case has stirred the MMS controversies again. Since 2004, India has witnessed numerous MMS scandals. It is a grim reminder of how the internet can be misused to the extent 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 seconds long video was being sold on a website of two students of Delhi Public School (DPS) RK Puram. The report was exclusively covered by journalist Anupam Thapa a tabloid named TODAY (owned by India Today). In his report, Thapa alleged that a website named Baazee.com was selling pornographic clips of students from DPS. The report read, “India’s biggest online trading portal baazee.com had listed the said MMS clip under the title ‘DPS girls having fun’ with the member ID of 27877408.”

At that time, Baazee.com was a famous website for selling products online. Though India was still getting in sync with the online world, the reports of MMS clips being sold online went viral instantly. The clip was pixelated and grainy in nature, and it was obvious that the person who recorded the clip used a low-resolution camera phone. It was also evident that the girl who was being recorded was possibly unaware that the boy was recording the sexual act. Both the students were of Class XI at that time.

According to the case details in Avnish Bajaj versus State, the clip was being sold for Rs 125 over the website baazee.com. 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 of the 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 website on November 27, 2004, at a price of Rs 125 per piece. He was using the name of Alice Electronics with an address of Kharagpur.

To avoid detection by the baazee.com filters, he had placed it under the category Books and Magazines and sub-category ‘e-books.’ Though the words’ sex’ and ‘sexual’ were part of the ‘suspected words’ list, the listing passed the system and went live with the description “Item 27877408 – DPS Girls having fun!!! full video + Baazee points”.

How baazee.com failed to detect the nature of the clip

As per the court documents, there was a system in place that informed the website’s moderators about a new listing. The moderators, who were on the company’s payroll, were supposed to call the user and confirm the listing. However, this was only for the new sellers. The old sellers could list the products without getting a call from the moderators. In the case of old sellers, there was a system in place that would check the information of the item and approve or disapprove based on the meta-data 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 about item ID 27877408”. In his email, Vohra informed baazee.com that the product that was listed on the website was a pornographic video which was illegal in India. Also, the persons shown in the video were below the legal age of 18, making it a serious offence. He wrote, “You need to sort this issue, and you should even report it to the legal authorities as this can get your site in trouble.”

The email was marked to BIPL official Namrata on the same day. On the next day, i.e., on November 28, 2004, the email was assigned to Swapna Sawant and was marked to the ‘high alert’ category. On November 29, 2004, baazee.com delisted the video and sent an email to the seller saying, “The listings put up on site by you are either obscene or pornographic in nature.” It was further informed that the listed item was removed as per the User Agreement.

A letter was sent to Amit Vohra as well, thanking him for the email reporting the item in question. However, eight transactions were made so far from cities, including Calcutta, Nellore, Pune, Delhi, Bangalore, and Chennai.

On December 9, 2004, the Crime Branch of Delhi police received credible information about the sale on the auction website and registered FIR in the matter. On the same day, the report in TODAY was published with the title “DPS sex video at baazee.com.” The report read, “India’s biggest online trading portal baazee.com had listed the said MMS clip under the title ‘DPS girls having fun’ with the member ID of 27877408. The Police, upon investigation, learned that one Alice Electronics of Kharagpur West Bengal had since November 27, 2004, sold eight copies of the said MMS clip.”

A Notice under Section 91 CrPC was sent to Sharat Digumarti, the Senior Manager, Trust, and Safety, BIPL, also an accused in the matter, to obtain information about the seller. The information was provided to the Police the next day by baazee.com. Digumarti, in reply to the notice, said that the listing was disabled immediately once they received the information about it.

In the investigation report, the Police said that the three accused, Avnish Bajaj, Ravi Raj, and Sharat Digumarti were aware of the nature of the video and went ahead with the sale. A charge sheet against them was prepared under Sections 292 and 294 of the Indian Penal Code and Section 67 of the IT Act.

The matter is still sub-judice.

Some reports suggest that the two students who were in the video were suspended from the school. The girl was sent to London, and the boy was sent to Australia by his parents. Their whereabouts are unknown. Since the MMS went viral on the internet, the way, the people of India and the law look at pornography changed.

The MMS scandal was also picked up by Bollywood and the TV industry. Movies including Dev D, Love Sex aur Dhoka, Ragini MMS, and I Don’t Luv You are some of the films that have incidents loosely based on the DPS MMS scandal. The crime series ‘Gumrah: End of Innocence’ also featured an episode on the incident.

It is impossible to remove something from the internet completely

Since the DPS MMS, several MMS scandals surfaced on the internet, but none of them sensationalized the country the way the DPS matter did. When the MMS was first released, the number of internet users in India was very limited. Those who are aware of the matter know that the clip was sold in CDs 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 as the matter had made it to the headlines.

At that time, there were some adult forums that shared the clip widely. Though the Police and law attempted to remove the clip from the majority of the famous porn websites, and it is now hard to find the clip on the “popular” porn websites, experts believe that the clip might still be available on low-ranking porn websites. The DPS case is a classic and sad yet perfect example of the fact that once something gets available on the internet, it remains on the internet forever.

Please note that downloading, sending, selling and purchase of porn in India is illegal and punishable as per the law.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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B.Sc. Multimedia, a journalist by profession.

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