Bombay High Court: The Bombay High Court recently stated during a hearing that Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) does not regard short skirts, suggestive dancing, or gestures to be obscene conduct per se. The Nagpur division of the High Court made the comment while rejecting a FIR against five people who were accused of watching a dance performance by ladies wearing shorts and throwing fake bills at them as they danced.
High Court Acknowledges Evolving Moral Standards and Changing Attitudes Towards Attire
Justices Vinay Joshi and Valmiki Sa Menezes’ division bench, which was hearing the case, stated that while it is aware of the broad moral standards that govern Indian society today, it has become fairly normal and accepted for women to wear swimwear or other provocative clothing.
Court Rejects Obscenity Claims, Prefers Progressive View on What Constitutes Offense
The court said, “We are of the considered opinion that the acts referred in the complaint/FIR, namely 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 Bombay High Court noted that while a police officer may see such conduct as offensive in his or her own judgement, it would be outdated for the court to adopt a limited definition of what is offensive.
Court Advocates Progressive Approach and Cites Lack of Obscenity in FIR
The bench stated, “We prefer taking a progressive view in the matter and are unwilling to leave such a decision in the hands of police officials.” The Bombay High Court observed that there was no claim in the FIR that the five appellants had engaged in any obscenity or performed any obscene activities that were offensive to the general public.