PUBLIC DISPLAY OF AFFECTION- AN ANALYSIS
The intimacy of partners is the least discussed topic in India. Most people in India take a back seat while discussing their private life. The mindset of the people hasn’t changed a lot even after a drastic modernisation has happened in the country. Indians still hold on to their moral ethical values in these matters. The majority of the population in India oppose the concept of public display of affection. They feel it is obscene, whereas it is not a big deal in western countries. This article will be dealing with two major issues in the concept of public display of affection. One is that what amounts to obscenity and the other issue is that whether a private vehicle can be considered a public place.
WHAT IS PUBLIC DISPLAY OF AFFECTION?
Public display of affection shortly referred to as PDA, is an act of displaying an individual’s love or affection for another individual (generally opposite sex) which might be either verbally or physically in the eyes of the public. It is to be noted that not all types of verbal and physical expression of affection amount to PDA. Few acts like hugging in public, greeting kisses, non-vulgar verbal expression of love, holding hands in public are not considered as PDA.While activities like the act of “making out” or other sexual doings are considered obscene and hence are not acceptable. It is imperative to distinguish that, every so often couples are been disapproved for the actions like “giving a peck on their partner’s lips or in the forehead,”cannot be obscene but other actions like kissing avidly or sensually touching can be considered obscene as it can make people annoyed.
PDA AND INDIAN LAWS:
Though there is no express mention of PDA in any of the coded Indian laws, section 294 of the Indian Penal Code is often used to file cases in these matters. Section 294 states that any “Obscene acts and songs — Whoever, to the annoyance of others (a) does any obscene act in any public place, or(b) sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad 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.”. Under section 294 of IPC, any act which causes annoyance to others by any ‘obscene acts’ is a criminal offence with a punishment of imprisonment which may extend up to 3 months or a fine, or both. The Code does not provide a clear definition of ‘obscene acts’ and it is deliberately misused by the police, public,and lower courts to defame the young couples.
SUPREME COURT OF INDIA IN THE MATTERS OF PDA:
As there is no explicit definition of what is obscenity or what amounts to obscene acts, the duty is laid upon on the judiciary to give the truest expression and its wideness of definition of what acts are covered and what not covered.The judgment in the case of Ranjit D. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra, is regarded as one of the landmark judgments. The Supreme court in this case has stated that “the word obscene is not defined in any provisions of IPC and this becomes an important job for the courts to define.” It is very significant to know that, the Supreme Court or High Courts across the country have never held actions such as kissing or hugging as unlawful or illegal.
Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution of India states that freedom of speech and expression is a fundamental right, and no person can be run-down of the same with certain restrictions. But whether the concept of obscenity comes under this article is to be decided wisely. The Supreme Court has clearly stated that no case can be filed against the act of passionate kissing, and Section 294(a) of IPC clearly states that the act must be of such an extent that it could cause annoyance to the public.
The Apex Court in the case of S. Khushboo v. Kanniammal & Another, held that
“obscenity should be determined with respect to present-day civic ideals that replicate the emotional response as well as the broad mindedness level of an normal rational individual.” The Court has also specified that the “fundamental liberty under Article. 19(1)(a) should be rationallyconstrained only in the casesspecified in Article 19(2) and the restriction must be justified.” Thus, an act thatamounts to obscenity must be decided with the circumstances and the rationality of a person in a particular place.
The Apex Court has also stated that “no case can be made out of two people consensually hugging and/or kissing.” This judgment was in responseto a petition filed by Richard Gere to quash the warrant of arrest issued by a Jaipur court after the said actor had been involved in kissing the Bollywood actress, Shilpa Shetty at an AIDS awareness program.
PDA IN PRIVATE VEHICLES:
One of the fondest question in the matters of PDA is whether a private vehicle can be considered a public place. As discussed before under section 294 of IPC, only annoyance created at a public place is an offence. It is to be distinguished that if a pair is making out in public transport, then the act becomes offensive and punishable under provisions of the IPC, but on the other hand, if the same is done in a private vehicle like a car and the place where such act takes placeit cannotbe said as a public place thus, it is considered to be permissible and tolerable as neither bothers the public nor causes annoyance when done in public.
Whether loving privately or publicly is the choice of the partners or the couples. It is to be noted that expression of love is not bad and the act of hugging and kissing is a part of the modern world thatis normal and acceptable. But crossing the line of bringing more intimacy like having sex in the public is still not acceptable in countries like India even if the majority of the population are been modernised. Therefore, such act of obscenity depends upon the rationalism of the circumstance.
Section 294 of Indian Penal Code, 1860.  1965 AIR 881. 2010 AIR SC3196.
Disclaimer: This article is purely written from the author’s point of view