Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has ruled that wearing short skirts, dancing provocatively, or making gestures cannot be considered inherently obscene acts under Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The court made this observation while quashing a First Information Report (FIR) filed against five individuals who were booked for watching a dance performance by women in short clothing and showering fake currency notes on them as they danced.
The Nagpur bench of the High Court, comprising Justices Vinay Joshi and Valmiki Sa Menezes, noted that while they are aware of prevailing societal norms of morality, it has become common and acceptable for women to wear revealing attire, such as swimming costumes. The court stated that the acts mentioned in the FIR, including wearing short skirts, dancing provocatively, or making gestures considered obscene by police officers, cannot be deemed per se obscene.
The court expressed that it would be retrogressive to rely on a police officer’s personal opinion to determine obscenity and preferred a more progressive approach. They emphasized that similar dress styles and behaviours are seen in films that pass censorship and at public beauty pageants without causing annoyance to the audience. Thus, Section 294 of the IPC, relating to obscenity, should not apply in such situations.
The case revolved around a raid conducted at a banquet hall in Tirkhura’s Tiger Paradise Resort and Water Park in Nagpur district. Six women were found in the hall, dressed in short clothes and dancing provocatively while making obscene gestures. The prosecution claimed that customers were also participating in the dance and showering fake currency notes on the women, justifying the FIR under Section 294 of the IPC.
The court observed that there was no allegation in the FIR that the five accused had engaged in acts of obscenity that caused annoyance to the public. Therefore, they ruled that the ingredients of an offence under Section 294 were not present in the complaint and proceeded to quash the FIR.