Wearing short skirts, dancing provocatively or making gestures cannot be considered “obscene” acts per se that could annoy the public, the Bombay High Court has said, dismissing a police case regarding an event held in the banquet hall of a resort in Nagpur’s Tirkhura.
According to the order of the High Court’s Nagpur bench, a police team in May raided Tiger Paradise Resort and Water Park in Tirkhura and found six women dancing for a small audience.
“A reading of the FIR reveals that after the Police Officials entered the Banquet Hall, they witnessed that the six women were wearing short clothes and dancing indecently, while the audience/onlookers were showering fake notes of denomination of Rs.10/- on these women. The FIR further records that some of the onlookers were consuming alcohol,” the order states.
The FIR invoked Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code, relating to acts of obscenity, and relevant sections of Maharashtra Police Act and its prohibition law.
The court underlined that for an act to be an offence under Section 294, it must be committed in public. “Section 294 further requires that the obscene act or the obscene song or words must, after being seen or heard, be to the annoyance of others, meaning thereby, a
specific complaint should be made by people in the immediate vicinity of either of these acts,” the order adds.
Stressing that the IPC does not define a “public place”, the court relied on earlier judgments to conclude that a resort’s banquet Hall, “in the absence of any material on record to demonstrate that it was in exclusive and private use of the Applicants or any other Accused persons in this case, must be held to be a ‘public place'”.
The defendants, who attended the event, argued that this is “clearly a case of moral policing on the part of the Investigating Agency”. ,
The court said “wearing short skirts, dancing provocatively or making gestures that the Police Officials consider obscene cannot be termed to be per se obscene acts, which could cause annoyance to any member of the public”.
The bench said it is “mindful of the general norms of morality prevalent in present Indian Society” and added that “in present times it is quite common and acceptable that women may wear such clothing”. “We often witness this manner of dress in films which pass
censorship or at beauty pageants held in broad public view, without causing annoyance to any audience,” the court said.
“Taking a narrow view as to what acts could constitute an 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,” it added.
“There is no fact stated in the complaint that any specific person felt a sense of annoyance. Consequently, we hold that the ingredients of an offence under Section 294 of IPC are not made out in the FIR/complaint dated 31.05.2023,” the court said in the order dated October 11.