In country like India, women is considered as the symbol of respect, dignity and prestige of a family and society. There are many strict social norms which women’s have to follow especially in relation to showcasing of her body for example- A women has to fully cover her body in a public setting. However in recent times, in the name of modernity these social norms have lost their importance and women’s body have become a source of economic gains, some are exploited while some actively take part into such acts. 

These days, the markets are flooded with books, magazines, periodicals, posters and other pornographic literature which depict women in most vulgar way. These books contain nude, semi-nude photographs of women exposing the private parts of their bodies which are bringing shame to womanhood of our country. These magazines are just pornographic literatures which are corrupting the minds of our youth and resulting in heinous crimes like rape and other assaults on the women and girls in the country.

It has become a trend in the name of fashion where Women’s from all walks of life indulge in trade exposition of body for economic gains.  Recently a lady lawyer of Delhi High court appeared in nude and semi nude photos of a magazine contending that Kareena Kapoor’s act is now way amounts to Obscene and Vulgar. However, Delhi Bar Association cancelled her licence and said that it time for lawyers to learn differentiating between professional and personal life.

Even policemen are helpless as per the court ruling, they can conduct the raids only when the shows are obscene but obscenity is a matter interpretation. In K.P. Muhammad’s case, the court held that performance of Cabaret dance devoid of nudity and obscenity according to Indian social standards in hotels and restaurants is not liable to be banned or prevented. The police authorities says, “It would be prudish to think that nude picture of a girl is obscene.

Until there will be no strict provisions in Legal spheres and social norms, women’s will be subjected to such Indecency. In the context of such Indecency an act was passed which specifically deals with publication or depiction of women’s in an informal way. The act came to be known as “Indecent Representation Of Women’s (Prohibition) Act 1986.

Preamble of the Act

The Act is aimed to prohibit and regulate the Representation of and portrayal of women in mainstream media, particularly in print media. This Act was enforced to ensure that the portrayal of Women in media by the means of advertising, writings, publications, paintings and figures or in any other form was not such that, it could be termed as Indecent.

Salient Features Of Act

This act may be called Indecent Representation Of Women (Prohibition) Act 1986. The jurisdiction of this act extends to whole of India including Jammu and Kashmir. This act came into force on October 2, 1987 by the appointment of Central Government by the notification in Official Gazette.

Section 2 of this act deals with the definition part, thereby giving meaning to the words which are used in this act. We need to consider these same meanings provided in the Act to understand the interpretation. However unless the context itself refers to some other definitions. Some of the definitions are-

  1. Advertisement– It includes any form of notice, circular, label, wrapper, or other document and also includes visible Representation by means of any light, sound, smoke or gas.
  2. Distribution– it includes distribution by way of samples, whether free of paid.
  3. Indecent Representation Of Women– It has been defined as a means of depiction of women’s form, body, or any part in such a manner which has the effect of being Indecent, derogatory, or denigrating women and is likely to deprave, corrupt or injure the public morality or order.
  4. Label– Means any written, marked, stamped, printed or graphic matter, affixed to or appearing upon the package.
  5. Package– Includes a box, carton, tin or any other container
  6. Prescribed– Means prescribed by rules made under this act.

Section 3 of the act particularly deals with prohibition of advertisement showcasing Indecency of a woman. It says that no person has a right to publish or intends to publish in future or make arrangements to take part in the publication or exhibition of any advertisement which may tend to lower down the reputation and dignity of women’s in the society or which is indecent according to the social standards.

Section 4 Of this act directly deals with the restricting the production, distribution, hiring, selling, circulation of any books, pamphlets, paper, slide, films, writing, drawing, painting, photograph or figures which contains materials trending to represent women Indecently or in an Obscene manner.

However there are certain exceptions to this:

  • This section does not apply to the publication of such items which are approved and justified for public interest and good. For example- If any such books, drawings or pictures is used for the purpose of learning such as science, literature or other objects of general concern, it can be published and distributed.
  • If such publication is kept or used with a bona fide intention for religious purposes, such publication of books and drawings can not amount to restriction under this section. For example- Pictures of Shiva’s Lingaa and Yoni will not amount to Indecent Representation.
  • Any sculptures, paintings, engravings on Ancient monuments which comes within the meaning of Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act 1958 does not amount to Indecent Representation.
  • Any temples or any car which have any publications, drawings, printing and are used for the conveyance of Idols or kept or used for any religious purposes does not comes under the ambit of this section
  • Similarly, production of any films in respect of which the provisions of Part II of Cinematography Act 1952, has been applied does not amount to Indecent Representation Of Women’s.

Section 5 of this Act grants powers to any Gazetted officer, authorised by State Government within his jurisdiction area can:

  • With any assistance if required, may enter and search at any place at all reasonable times, if he has the reason to belief that an offence under this act has been committed is being committed.
  • Seize any advertisement or any books, pamphlets, papers, slide films, writings, drawings, paintings and photographs which he belief to be Indecent and contravenes with the provisions of the act.
  • Examine any record, register, document or any other material object found in any place and may seize the same if he has reasons to believe that it may furnish evidence of the commission of an offence under this act.

However, there are exceptions to this rule that:

  • Any officer can not enter into a private dwelling without a legal warrant.
  • Power of seizure of document is restricted to only those documents which are depicting Indecency and that our against the provisions of this act. Therefore only sucharticles, documents or advertisement needs to be separated from the rest of it, without affecting the integrity, utility or saleable value thereof.
  • The provisions of the Code Of Criminal Procedure 1973, shall also be applied to any search or seizure of documents under this act because Section 94 of this act has laid guidelines or rules for conducting such seizures and searches with warrant.
  • Lastly, any officer who seizes anything under this act shall as soon as possible has to inform the nearest magistrate and take his order to the custody thereof.

Section 6 of this act gives various legal penalty or punishments to any person who has breached the provisions if this Section 3 and 4 shall be punishable-

  • On first conviction he shall be imprisoned for a term which may extend to 2 years and with a fine which may extend to 2000 rupees.
  • On second conviction he shall be imprisoned for a term of not less that 6 months which may extend to 5 years and also with a fine of not less than 10,000 which may extend to 1 lakh rupees.

Section 7 of this act deals with any offences which has been committed by a company stating that every person who was in charge of, at the time when offence was committed shall be deemed to be guilty and liable, and punished accordingly.

However, there are certain exceptions which are as follows:

  • Any such person liable for punishment proves that the offence was committed without the knowledge or that he had exercised all due diligence to prevent the commission of such offence. He will not be amounted to be deemed guilty

Under this section where any offence had been committed by a company, and is proved that It has committed with the consent or connivance of any director, secretary, manger or any other officer of the company such director, manager, secretary shall be published accordingly.

Section 8 of this act says that not taking into consideration anything contained in the Code Of Criminal Procedure 1973, an offence under this act shall be bailable and cognizable.

Section 9 of this act justifies the actions or acts of central government, state government or any Gazetted office done in good faith, and exempts them from legal suit, prosecution and other legal proceedings.

Section 10 of this act has granted powers to the central government, by notification in Official Gazette to make rules to carry out the provisions of this act. Some of the provisions are as follows-:

  • Central government without any prejudice can make rules In regards to seizure of articles, documents or advertisement, making a list of the seized documents articles and from whose custody such advertisement and articles have been seized.
  • Central government can make rules in other matters which is required to be, or may be prescribed.

Process of Making Rules

Every rule that the central government has made under this act shall be presented before each house of the parliament, while it is in session for a period of 30 days, and of both the houses agrees to make such modifications or declines it, such decisions will have effect on the act, however any such modifications or amendments shall be without any prejudice.

Important Case Laws Regarding Indecent Representation Of Women’s (Prohibition) Act 1986.

In Ajay Goswami V. Union of India, is a relevant case which drew provisions from the Indian Penal Code, Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition)Act etc. to challenge the obscene content in newspapers. It also stated that the press Council’s power to censure needs to be reviewed.

The petitioner’s grievance is that the freedom of speech and expression enjoyed by the newspaper industry is not keeping balance with the protection of children from harmful and disturbing materials. And while reading the newspaper   children’s upon seeing such nude or semi nude articles, may tend to corrupt their morality. However, the writ petition was dismissed but directed the Government to consider the request of the Press Council to amend the section in public interest.

In Chandra Raja Kumari Vs Police Commissioner, Hyderabad, it had been held that right to life includes right to live with human dignity or decency and therefore holding of beauty contests is repugnant to dignity or decency of women and offends Art 21 of the Constitution.

The decision came in light to the petition opposing the beauty contest of women in general as they are unconstitutional as it offends Article 51 A (e), Article 21 and Article 14 of the Constitution of India in as much as repugnant to International Conventions and Covenants and the resolutions of the United Nations and Conferences on Women.  They are opposed to the decency, public morality and dignity of women in general and women of Indian society in particular and repugnant to Indian culture, traditions, and the social values. These contest are intended to exploit women’s for commercial purposes and enriching themselves at the cost of Indecent representation of women.

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