Obscenity Laws

In India, the Indian Penal Code (IPC) deals with the offence of obscenity through Sections 292, 293, and 294. These sections provide a vague definition of what constitutes obscenity, and they prohibit the sale or publication of certain materials, criminalize the distribution of obscene objects to minors, and prohibit obscene acts and songs in public spaces. In addition, Section 67 of the Information Technology Act criminalizes obscene conduct on the internet. However, there is no clear definition of what constitutes obscenity in the laws, and the judiciary’s view on what is considered obscene has changed and evolved over the years.

Defining Obscenity under the Indian Penal Code

  • Section 292 of the Indian Penal Code defines obscenity as any content that is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest, or if its effect tends to deprave and corrupt persons likely to read, see or hear the content. This section prohibits the sale or publication of any obscene pamphlet, book, paper, painting, and other such materials.
  • Meanwhile, Section 293 criminalizes the sale or distribution of obscene objects to anyone who is under the age of 20, or an attempt to do so.
  • Although this is a bailable offence, the maximum punishment for the first conviction is three years of imprisonment and a fine up to Rs 2,000, and for the second conviction seven years with a fine up to Rs 5,000.
  • Section 294 prohibits obscene acts and songs in public spaces. The maximum punishment for the person convicted under this charge is three-month jail and a fine.

Obscenity on the Internet

  • With the advent of the digital age, laws were made to criminalize obscene conduct on the internet also. Section 67 of the Information Technology Act says that anyone who publishes or transmits obscene material in electronic form can be punished.

Judiciary’s View on Obscenity

  • Since there is no clear definition of what constitutes obscenity in the laws, the judiciary’s view on what is considered obscene has changed and evolved over the years. Until 2014, the judiciary used the Hicklin test to determine if something is obscene or not.
  • The Hicklin test was established in English Law after the case of Regina vs Hicklin (1868). According to it, a work can be considered obscene if any portion of it is found to �deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such influences�. The test was most famously used by the Supreme Court to ban DH Lawrence�s Lady Chatterley�s Lover in the case of Ranjit D Udeshi vs State Of Maharashtra (1964).
  • However, in 2014, the apex court did away with the Hicklin test while hearing the case of Aveek Sarkar & Anr vs State Of West Bengal and Anr, which was regarding the publication of a semi-nude picture of Boris Becker and his fianc�e.
  • In its judgement, the court said �while judging as to whether a particular photograph, an article or book is obscene, regard must be had to the contemporary mores and national standards and not the standard of a group of susceptible or sensitive persons�. It added that the photograph must be �taken as a whole� and seen with the context of what it wants to convey.

Obscenity is a crime under the Indian Penal Code, and it is defined in Sections 292, 293, and 294. These sections prohibit the sale or publication of certain materials, criminalize the distribution of obscene objects to minors, and prohibit obscene acts and songs in public spaces. Additionally, Section 67 of the Information Technology Act deals with obscenity on the internet. While there is no clear definition of what constitutes obscenity in the laws, the judiciary’s view on what is considered obscene has changed and evolved over the years. Until 2014, the judiciary used the Hicklin test to determine if something is obscene or not. However, the apex court has replaced the Hicklin test in 2014 with a more contemporary mores and national standards criteria, which demands the photograph to be �taken as a whole� and seen with the context of what it wants to convey.

 

Written by IAS POINT

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply