Police in India say they will prosecute a man who allegedly created an app that put up photos of more than 80 Muslim women for “sale” online last year.
The announcement came after Delhi’s Lieutenant-Governor VK Saxena granted permission to try Aumkareshwar Thakur, 25, in court.
The open source app – Sulli Deals – had been hosted on web platform GitHub in July 2021.
Mr Thakur had been arrested in January, but was granted bail in March.
Mr Thakur, who holds a degree is computer applications, had been arrested from Indore city in the central state of Madhya Pradesh by a Delhi police team set up to investigate serious crimes.
The police registered cases against him under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, India’s Information Technology Act and section 196 of India’s Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
Section 196 deals with “offences committed against the state”, rather than an individual, and is generally invoked against high-ranking government officials which requires permission from the federal or state government to proceed.
Sulli Deals had taken publicly available pictures and created profiles for Muslim women, describing them as “deals of the day”.
Mr Thakur was arrested along with Neeraj Bishnoi, 20, who had allegedly created the Bulli Bai app which had uploaded photos of more than 100 Muslim women and was also hosted on GitHub.
In both cases, there was no actual sale – the purpose was to degrade and humiliate Muslim women, many of whom have been outspoken about the rising tide of Hindu nationalism under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, an accusation his party and government deny.
Critics say online trolling of Muslim women has worsened in recent years in India’s polarised political climate.
A 2018 Amnesty International report on online harassment in India showed that the more vocal a woman was, the more likely she was to be targeted – the scale of this increased for women from religious minorities and disadvantaged castes.
Those featured on both the apps were all vocal Muslims, including journalists, activists, artists and researchers.
A commercial pilot whose photo was uploaded on Sulli Deals said that she felt “chills” go down her spine when she heard about the app.
While giving bail to Mr Thakur in March, the judge had said that he was not a flight risk and wasn’t in a position to influence the investigation.