HC bats for `progressive view’ of obscenity definition, quashes criminal case

Stating that it prefers to take a progressive view of what constitutes obscenity, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court has quashed a criminal case registered against five men for watching `scantily dressed’ women dancing at a party.

The court was mindful of the prevailing norms of morality and what kind of dressing is considered normal and acceptable in the present times, said a division bench of Justices Vinay Joshi and Valmiki SA Menezes while quashing the First Information Report (FIR) registered by Umred police in Nagpur district on Wednesday.

As per the FIR, on May 31, 2023, police raided a place in Umred area and found that some men were watching scantily dressed women performing an obscene dance and showering dummy currency notes on them.

The FIR named 18 persons including the women. The accused then moved the court, seeking to quash the case.

“Taking a narrow view as to what acts could constitute obscenity would be a retrograde act, on our part. We prefer taking a progressive view in the matter and are unwilling to leave such a decision in the hands of police officials,” the high court said in the order.

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The actions of the accused women, who were allegedly wearing short skirts and dancing provocatively or making `obscene’ gestures cannot be termed to be “per se obscene acts” which could cause annoyance to any member of the public, the judges said.

“Whilst holding so, we are mindful of the general norms of morality prevalent in present Indian society and take judicial note of the fact, that in present times it is quite common and acceptable that women may wear such clothing, or may be clad in swimming costumes or such other revealing attire,” the court said.

Such dressing is often seen in films or at beauty pageants, it said.

“Surely the provisions of section 294 of the Indian Penal Code (obscene acts) would not apply to all this situation,” the high court said.

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