Suspects in derogatory ‘Sulli Deals/Bulli Bai’ apps case get humanitarian bail

iNDICA News Service-

A court in India’s capital Delhi granted bail Monday, March 28, to the alleged masterminds of the derogatory and anti-woman ‘Sulli Deals’ and ‘Bulli Bai’ apps, a police officer said.

Deputy Commissioner of Police KPS Malhotra told the Indo-Asian News Service that the suspects — Aumkareshwar Thakur in the ‘Sulli Deals’ case and Niraj Bishnoi in ‘Bulli Bai’ — were granted bail because results of forensic tests on their digital equipment and replies from tech intermediaries are still awaited.

“The trial court has relied upon the evidence against the accused persons and no shortcoming in the investigation was pointed out,” Malhotra told the agency.

According to the officer, the court granted bail on humanitarian grounds as the suspects are first-time offenders and it felt that continued incarceration while awaiting trial may be detrimental to their well-being.

Thakur, 25, a resident of Indore in Madhya Pradesh, was arrested by the Delhi police Jan 8. The derogatory ‘Sulli Deals’ app, allegedly created by him, had surfaced in July 2021 on GitHub with photos of outspoken Muslim women activists displayed maliciously for ‘auction’ with humiliating content. The name of the app comes from an insulting term used by fascist trolls for Muslim women.

The Delhi police’s cyber crimes unit registered a first information report (FIR) under section 354-A (sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment) of the Indian Penal Code July 8 last year. Thereafter the police simply sat on the matter.

The controversy resurfaced Jan 1 this year when morphed images of hundreds of women were found listed on another app called ‘Bulli Bai’, also hosted on GitHub. The photographs, posted without consent, included those of several journalists and activists. The app appeared to be a clone of ‘Sulli Deals’ and had a number of women, including journalists, social workers, students and famous personalities, up for ‘auction’ with hateful and insulting content accompanying their images.

This time a Delhi-based woman journalist lodged a police complaint that she was being targeted by some people on a mobile app hosted on GitHub. Meanwhile, the Mumbai police, which also received a few complaints, swung into action and arrested three students in connection with the second case from Karnataka and Uttarakhand Jan 4 and 5.

The Delhi police then got into the act and arrested the alleged ‘Bulli Bai’ creator, Niraj Bishnoi, a student of computer science in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, from his residence in Assam Jan 6. On interrogation, it emerged that Bishnoi used to interact with various virtual identities on social media and engage in group discussions.

In July 2021, in one of the groups of which he was a member, another member shared details of ‘Sulli Deals’. That was the first time Bishnoi and other group members heard of the app.

Based on disclosures made by Bishnoi and on the basis of technical analysis, Thakur was identified and traced to Indore and arrested Jan 8. Thakur was questioned and his technical gadgets were subjected to preliminary analysis. On sustained questioning, he reportedly confessed to having created the ‘Sulli Deals’ app on GitHub.