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Can you kiss a girl in public in India?
Can you kiss a girl in public in India? India is a free country. You have freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by the Indian Constitution. But rights are provided to every citizen with reasonable restrictions. So, the question is whether kissing in public will fall under Art 19(1)(a), freedom of expression or will it attract punishment under section 294 of the IPC, obscenity in public.
IPC or the Constitution do not mention kissing anywhere. But in many cases, couples have been booked under section 294 of the IPC for kissing in public. Section 294 says that:-
whoever, to the annoyance of others, (a) does any obscene act in any public place, or (b) 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 3 months or with fine or with both.
The problem with this definition is that the word obscenity is not defined anywhere. This has lead to misuse of this section by the Police and the lower courts. Police even harrases young couples who are just holding hands in public places citing this section.
In 2007 renowned Hollywood actor Richard Gere kissed Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty at an AIDS awareness event in New Delhi. An arrest warrant was issued by a Rajasthan court against Gere and obscenity charges framed against Ms. Shetty. In 2011 Ghaziabad police started “Operation Majnu” to teach moral policing to young boys and girls in public places.
The Supreme court of India in a 2014 judgement tried to clear this vague law by introducing “contemproary community standards”. The court stated that:-
Only those sex-related materials which have a tendency of “exciting lustful thoughts” can be held to be obscene, but the obscenity has to be judged from the point of view of an average person, by applying contemporary community standards.”
What is the problem with contemporary community standards?
The problem with this definition is that the standards will highly vary from one area to another and depends on the context of the surrounding and the average person living in the area. While it might not be considered illegal in upscale posh areas in the metros, it still might be considered illegal as not complying to the community standards in a village. So, it still leaves some room for exploitation of this section.
What are my thoughts on this?
India is progressing towards a very bright future and I believe there is no place for such regressive thinking in that society. Although our Indian culture has always regualated our behaviour in public, I think kissing and hugging should fall under the freedom of expression.
We Indians are always nosy in other people’s business. Holding hands in public will catch you eyes from everyone around you but you can piss in the middle of the road and no one will bat an eye. When we see people fighting on roads, we ignore and move on thinking “Ye unka matter hai”. But if we see a couple hugging, it will suddenly be offending to us and we will start moral policing them.
This needs to change.
On the subject of kissing in public, It is fine till 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.