Obscene acts in private place not offence under IPC sec 294: HC

Quashing a case against 13 men who were arrested for allegedly indulging in obscene acts with women in a flat, the Bombay High Court has said any such action done in a private place is not a criminal offence under the Indian Penal Code.

A division bench of Justices N H Patil and A M Badar was hearing a petition recently filed by the men seeking quashing of the FIR registered against them by Andheri Police in December last year under IPC section 294 (anyone indulging in an obscene act in any public place or sings or utters any obscene songs or words in any public place causing annoyance to others).

According to police, on December 12, 2015, they received a complaint from a journalist about loud music emanating from a flat in the neighbourhood and that scantily dressed women were seen from the window dancing and men showering money at them. On perusal of the complaint, the police raided the flat and found six scantily dressed women who were dancing and 13 men consuming liquor in the flat. All the men were taken into custody and an FIR was registered against them.

Petitioners' advocate Rajendra Shirodkar argued that the flat in question cannot be said to be a public place where anyone had access. The court accepted this argument and said, "Obscene act done in a private place or viewed in privacy is not covered by the provisions of section 294 of IPC. The flat in building owned by some private person meant for private use of such owner cannot be said to be a public place."

"Section 294 of IPC is meant for punishing persons indulging in obscene act in any public place causing annoyance to others. As such, the places where such obscene act is committed needs to be a public place and meant for use of public at large. "Public must have free access to such place so as to call it a public place. The place where public have no right rather a lawful right to enter into, cannot be said to be a public place for invoking the penal provisions of section 294 of IPC," the court said.

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