MORAL POLICING IN INDIA
The author of this blog is Jatin Kumar, student of 2nd year BA LLB, SGT UNIVERSITY, GURUGRAM
Moral Policing in its broadest sense could mean a system where a strict vigil and restriction is imposed on those who violate the basic standards of our society. The basic standard of our society could be found in its cultures, age-old customs which are derived from the scriptures and ancient texts like Ramayana, Manu smriti, and other relevant texts. It is a situation where the moral character of an individual is questioned by those who advocate this phenomenon. It is significant to note that it is not only conducted upon human agency but it stretches upon other mediums like Cinema, theatrics, paintings, literature, and so on.
This is the phenomena which are basically directed by some politically motivated groups and the way of conducting moral policing is by using force sometimes it is wild in nature. More often we witness or hear moral policing when a group of people oppress somebody which are many times were unreasonable. Actually, the main core objective of moral policing is to harass and oppress the youth of the country when their words are considered as conflicting to religion or to the culture of India and also deemed as vile as per the society.
Moral policing also arises and done by society collectively when there are obscenity lies, like in painting, images, movies, as well as in literature. The first and foremost cause for the objection of such obscene content might be related to the fact that all the obscene content has been put up in the public domain. Also, containing some elements which may be disrespectful to some religious sentiments of the citizen of this country.
Now, a question arises,
How is our society compelled to conduct Moral Policing?
The factors which are liable for the conduct of moral policing is quite subjective in nature. More often it is observed that the propaganda which has been constituted for opposing the element which contradicts the basic tenets of our society is solely dependent on the subjective belief and faith of an individual who creates a storm in a teacup over mere conduct through rhetorical exhortations. Elements like Indian culture, traditions and customary rights which are in existence are kept in mind and the significance of the same is reflected upon the social dynamics by the extremists who claim that the mere act which has been committed either through the mode of painting, literature, film or by two opposite genders are against the basic tenets of our Indian society and is in contravention of the same.
The mere ‘act’ which has been committed is deemed as an offence against the society and it is to be assumed as an offence of the greatest degree by the people of our society because the same has been responsible for hurting the religious and sanctified elements of our society. The people of our society are given a ‘benefit of the doubt’ by those groups who claim an act of mere affection or proximity to be obnoxious and immoral and in consequence of the doubt, a particular set of individuals belonging to one faith violates the fundamental rights of another group belonging to a different faith which ultimately leads to lynching, arson, and great loss of human lives.
Section 110 of the Bombay Police Act, 1915 states that:
Behaving indecently in public. – No person shall wilfully and indecently expose his person ill any street or public place or within sight of, and in such manner, as to be seen from any street or public place, whether from within any house or building or not, or use indecent language or behave indecently or riotously, or in a disorderly manner in a street or place of public resort or in any office station or station house.
The futility of section 110 of the Bombay Police Act is undoubted to a great extent because it is archaic and it needs to be repealed since it reflects upon those issues which are no more deemed as objectionable in our society. I would like to point out that the definition fails to elaborate the meaning of ‘indecent’ and it has been left at the discretion of the police officer. Firstly, the meaning of ‘indecent’ has been left for us to comprehend and it has become the duty of our so-called police officers to tie a tag of ‘indecent behaviour’ to such acts which displays even a tiny amount of public affection. It has been contended that such regulation helps in maintaining peace and order in our society but it has a darker picture to show on the other side. Firstly, such kinds of moral policing impede the development of our society as a whole because it acknowledges in a very strict manner, the role of the different genders which ultimately promotes conservatism in our society. Secondly, it promotes gender biases which makes it difficult for the women of our society to move freely and act independently.
There is a case that supports the argument.
Pramod Mutalik v. The state of Goa & Ors.
In this case, the petitioner filed a petition challenging the orders passed by the District Magistrate of North Goa and South Goa, which banned the entry of petitioners in the State of Goa. The Petitioner substantiated his argument by stating that he is the leader of an organization called “Sri Ram Sene” and prior to the ban the petitioner had been to Goa for several days and during his stay, he had visited several temples to seek blessings from the Almighty. He stated that he was involved in social activities in a peaceful manner which has irked certain individuals who cherished intolerance towards the very right raising such issues. He consolidated his stand by claiming that no other criminal complaint or proceeding was pending against him in the state of Goa with reference to law and order.
The petitioner came to a conclusion that his opponent “Tousif Shaikh” who conducted Konkani Drama – “Aakantwadi Goent Naka” and the public advertisement of the same was a satire of Mutalik. The petitioner apprehended that his opponent was trying to malign his image through satirical drama by projecting him in a bad image. He pleaded that his organization “Sri Ram Sene” was not involved in any kind of unconstitutional activities, and it did not resort to any illegal or improper way of doing things. The petitioner pleaded that after having a conversation with the people of Goa during his visit he wished to visit the state again as it inspired him to pen down his own drama which was based on a social theme relating to inter-faith marriage and he asserted that in near future, local artists would come out from the state and enact the drama written by the petitioner. The petitioner asserted that he wanted to reply to his opponent in a constitutional manner and also promised that he would not take law and order into his hands.
The Petitioner from the aforementioned circumstances was trying to enforce and defend his legal right. He learnt from the newspaper that the orders banning his entry in the State of Goa were passed by the District Magistrate, South Goa and District Magistrate, North Goa. Thereafter the petitioner through his advocate submitted an application to both the District Magistrates to allow the petitioner an entry into the State of Goa for a particular period.
The request of the petitioner was turned down by both the District Magistrates. Subsequently, the orders issued by the District Magistrate, South Goa and North Goa were extended for 60 days and thereafter the ban was extended by the State Government for six months.