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Laws covering obscenity in India

  • Published
    27th Jul, 2022
Context

Based on a complaint by a Mumbai-based NGO, the Mumbai Police registered an FIR against actor Ranveer Singh recently for sharing photographs from an apparently nude photoshoot that he did with ‘Paper’ magazine.

About

Obscenity:

  • The word obscene comes from the Latin word obscenus, which means foul, repulsive, or detestable.
  • Obscenity is a term that is used to describe words that usually have a connection with sexual morality but now it extends to images or actions that offend most people. 
  • The word obscenity is from one of those words whose meanings are vague or not clear in our Indian Law. What is obscene content or not totally depends upon the lawyers and the judges and how they interpret the word obscene.
  • It is true that the definition of word obscenity would change from time to time. What is obscene in the present day should not be treated as obscene in the future. 

What sections of the law have police applied against Ranveer Singh?

The police have invoked Sections 292, 293 and 509 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), along with Section 67A of the IT Act.

  • Section 292 (Sale, etc. of obscene books, etc) says that “a book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation, figure, or any other object shall be deemed to be obscene if it is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest.
  • Section 293 (Sale, etc., of obscene objects to young person) says that “whoever sells, lets to hire, distributes, exhibits or circulates to any person under the age of twenty years any such obscene object…or offers or attempts so to do, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, and with fine which may extend to two thousand rupees.
  • Section 509 (Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) states “whoever, intending to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both”
  • Sections 67A of the Information Technology Act lays down the punishment for publishing or transmitting of material containing sexually explicit act, etc., in electronic form. 
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