oppn parties What is Indecent Behaviour & What is Public Place?

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  • Flipkart assures employees that there will be no job or salary cuts due to the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Although it was obvious, but the government still clarifies that there is no need to switch off appliances and only lights need to be switched off on April 5 at 9pm after confusion in the minds of some people
  • PM Modi and President Trump decide "to deploy full strength of (Indo-US) partnership" to fight against COVID-19
  • 17 states have reported 1023 cases of coronavirus linked to the Tablighi Jamaat, which translates to 30% of all positive cases in India
  • The government says people should not use alcohol-based hand sanitizers before lighting diyas or candles on April 5
  • The railways say there is no certainty yet when services will resume after the lockdown and a final decision will be taken in the next few days
  • As coronavirus cases multiply in Assam, six north-east states seal their borders with the state
  • Power System Operation Corporation Ltd. (POCOSO) putting all systems and protocols in place at war-footing to ensure there is no grid failure due to reduction in demand on April 5 at 9 pm
  • Power ministry scotches rumours that the power grid might fail due to the 9-minute blackout called by PM Modi on Sunday, April 5
  • Centre asks people to wear home-made masks if it is absolutely essential for them to step out of homes
  • Centre asks states to allow licensed street vendors to sell essential items
  • 8000 samples were tested across India on April 2, but the government said that testing will be need-based and will not be used as a confidence-boosting measure
  • Air India operating special flights to fly passengers stuck in India since the lockdown
  • For the first time in history, Darjeeling loses first flush tea due to suspension of garden work for Covid-19 outbreak
  • Supreme Court asks journalists to be responsible and publish only the official version of news after it was brought to its notice that migrant exodus started after the 'fake' news that the lockdown will be extended to three months
Total count stands ar 3082 as India records 16 Covid-19 deaths, the highest in a single day
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What is Indecent Behaviour & What is Public Place?

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2015-09-25 11:29:59

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
Mid-Day newspaper in Mumbai reported today that Malwani police picked up 40 couples from hotel rooms in Madh Island and surrounding areas (popular with Mumbai couples as a love-den). They were charged under section 110 of the Bombay Police Act for indecent behavior in public, abused, insulted and charged again when they protested the police action.

This kind of highhandedness by the police is possible only because indecency laws, whether in states or section 294 of the Indian Penal Code are unclear and undefined. The enforcement agencies have been given a lot of freedom to judge independently. This only ensures arbitrariness and corruption on part of the law enforcers. Why should a constable judge what is obscenity and what is a public place? Mumbai police have been known to raid house parties. Since when has a private house become a public place? Even if a neighbor complains about loud music, at most a warning within permitted hours and an order to wind up after permitted hours should suffice. If the neighbor complains about lewd behavior inside the house, he should be firmly told not to watch and keep his windows closed. The neighbor is in fact violating the privacy of the party giver by indulging in voyeurism.

Take section 294 of IPC for instance. It says:

1 Whoever, to the annoyance of others-

(a) Does any obscene act in any public place, or

(b) Sings, recites or utters any obscene song, balled 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.]

That’s all. It does not define an obscene act, a public place or what constitutes annoyance and who are “others,” leaving it to the imagination of the enforcers. In that sense, the section is highly vague and dangerous. It has been used to harass citizens and even blackmail them, as shown in the recent movie, Masaan. It defies logic to call having sex in a private room by consenting adults “an obscene act in a public place.” If a man and woman are in love, have not established themselves well in life to marry, do not have a place of their own, where will they satisfy the urges of their body? Of course, some of this happening in hotel rooms is obviously illicit but a thought should also be given for the demands of genuine couples. Very often, the “annoyance” caused to “others” takes the form of moral policing, when Rose Day, Valentine Day and other parties of young people are raided by police and assorted groups.

The section is often used to counter prostitution, soliciting and immoral trafficking. But the worst part is that those who indulge in such offences pay protection money to the police and are spared the harassment. They are often tipped off when a raid is to be conducted. Ordinary couples are the ones who bear the brunt of police action as they are easily threatened and blackmailed. Most of them end up paying bribes to escape humiliation. As is often seen after these raids, nothing happens to the hotels where these couples are caught. They pay the bribe and its business as usual for them. If the hotel rooms are public place (which they are not by any stretch of imagination), isn’t the hotel owner the first offender for allowing ‘indecent behavior’ to happen there?

Both obscenity and public place should be clearly defined or these sections should be reworded to make sense. Simultaneously, a code of conduct should be in place for cops conducting these raids. Genuine couples, who can prove their identities by providing accepted documents like driving licence, PAN card or Voter Identification Card (without the need to cross check them with their relatives or friends as this causes humiliation) should not be charged. Causing trauma to students can be dangerous, as one girl in the Madh Island raids has reportedly said that she is contemplating ending her life.