According to Section 294 of IPC kissing in broad daylight, in the public is considered a crime.
The I.P.C. 294 states that:
Obscene acts and songs.Whoever, to the annoyance of others
- does any obscene act in any public place, or
- sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both.
India is the world’s largest democratic nation and a land of cultures and customs rule. At the same time where some acts fall under the ambit of “Public Display of Affection” (PDA) and others are not. Some are acceptable by society while some are not.
Kissing in public is also a form of PDA. PDA differs from other acts done publicly. The objections raised on PDAs are dependent on the degree of intimacy and obscenity involved. Not only Kissing but hugging or public embracing is also PDA. Kissing in actuality is an expression of love or natural affection. But would we term the parental and pure love as an “obscene act”?
What if a mother kisses her child?
Is a father kissing goodbye to his daughter after her marriage, an obscene act?
Naturally, the answer will be a Big No. As society and customs do accepts this display of affection as this a parental love. But before labeling any particular act as ‘obscene’; we need to check, whether the act is actually indecent? So, we need to determine the degree of indecency involved.
Obscene wordy meaning
Dictionary meaning of the word “obscene”, shows that, ‘an offensive or disgusting by accepted standards of morality and decency.’
Cambridge Dictionary defines it as offensive, rude, or shocking, usually because of being too obviously related to sex or showing sex. Simple kissing in public never entails any provocation related to sex or can be a blow against morality. People out of natural outburst of emotions may also kiss unaware of their surroundings.
There are certain factors that need to be satisfied to make the act to be punished under this section:
If the act is obscene. Or If the act was done in a public place, or If the act cause nuisance (discomfort) to others. You will not be charged. Also, there are certain recent judgments by the Supreme Court that state that simple kissing in public is not an offense. The term obscene is an important factor in these cases and also the nature of the act is the prime thing that makes it liable or not.
Confusion with the term
According to recent judgments, kissing is not an obscene act by itself. In higher levels of the judiciary in India kissing in public is not universally treated as an illegal act. The judgments state it as an expression and compassion of love, an act that conveys the message of protection and security.
But it is to keep in mind that if you will not state these cases, then every kiss will be treated as a sexual expression and will be obscene.
Supreme Court Explanation
Supreme Court observed that the Indian penal code does not define the term obscene, so it will be challenging to say whether it is a crime according to the Indian Penal Code. The term obscene is normally defined by the culture in which public display of sexual affection that makes people uneasy is considered immoral. It will be a difficult task for courts to define obscene.
With the growth of mindset and modernization of society. A pure love and affection display is not an offence. As charge under Section 294, depends on the discomfort of the society. Since when you are acceptable to the society, till then that act will no longer be objectionable by the people around you.
Cases against Celebrity
Not just ordinary citizens, many celebrities have been targeted for public kissing under section 294, I.P.C., e.g., In 2007 at an AIDS awareness program in New Delhi, the famous Hollywood actor Richard Gere kissed Bollywood star, Shilpa Shetty. In the same Rajasthan court, issued the arrest warrant for showing vulgarity against Gere and Ms. Shilpa Shetty.
In 2011, Ghaziabad police began the “Operation Majnu”; to encourage moral practices, in the name of establishing the country’s culture. Under this numerous young school and college going couples were listed. Though these types of missions, who emerged out of some narrow minds and support by religious NGOs; doesn’t result in any type of Lawful detention, but they affect the lives and dignity of students and especially of their parents.
In 2018 a couple of kissing at one of the metro stations in Kolkata; even in modern metro cities like Kolkata; they were detained by some dominant local police officers. This act created so much uproar among the students; that students of several universities and colleges in Kolkata Metro took to the streets in favor of kissing in public. It emerges as a movement by College Students against such dominant law.
Most of you are aware of the Bajrang Dal. The Bajrang Dal is a religious militant organization that forms the youth wing of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP). Sometimes couples embracing and kissing each other in public during Valentine’s Day are arrested by the police and these groups for the sake of law and order & protecting Hindu culture.
Delhi High Court in one such case ruled out kissing in public by a married couple as “obscene”.
Most of the time, passing lewd comments from a roadside stall to a passerby young girl/woman or touching a woman’s private parts in a moving bus does not invite moral policing whereas kissing in public by a couple will. It’s the same society and its law and order securers who ignore the level of obscenity involved in a lewd comment or bad touch but certainly jumps into action when they spot any kissing in public.
Sections 294, IPC only speaks about the obscene act but nowhere has it sketched a list of obscene acts. So the meaning of obscenity is still obscure. Before marking kissing in public as obscene or confusing the public about its obscenity, one needs to study the legal provision in depth. Hearsay (Oral) evidence cannot form the basis of all complaints. Law should never be a weapon in the hands of public authorities to harass the common masses but to make them aware of its non-compliance.
Kissing in public is fine until it does not cross the limits of decency or morality laid by the law; and does not become a nuisance so as to incite public annoyance. Another point to be kept in mind before filing any complaint against kissing in public is that by using obscenity as a tool any undue harassment of the victim should not occur.