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Viewing Porn In Private Not A Crime, Says High Court

MUMBAI: Among teenaged minors, particularly boys in urban societies, watching a 'blue film'—a euphemism for pornography—is often considered a rite of passage, a coming-of-age staple, albeit a furtive one. But can adults who view pornographic

PTI [ Updated: November 25, 2010 10:22 IST ]
viewing porn in private not a crime says high court
viewing porn in private not a crime says high court

MUMBAI: Among teenaged minors, particularly boys in urban societies, watching a 'blue film'—a euphemism for pornography—is often considered a rite of passage, a coming-of-age staple, albeit a furtive one. But can adults who view pornographic content be charged with obscenity if they are doing so in private? No, says the Bombay high court, reports Times of India.


Justice Vijaya Kapse-Tahilramani of the Bombay high court on Wednesday quashed obscenity charges against top customs officers who were arrested following a police raid at a bungalow in Lonavla in 2008. Merely viewing an "obscene" film in the privacy of a house is not obscenity as defined under Indian criminal law, the court ruled.

The customs officers were raided while allegedly watching a pornographic film on a laptop and dancing with bar girls, the police had claimed.

"Simply viewing an obscene object is not an offence," Justice Tahilramani said. "It becomes an offence only when someone has in possession such objects for the purpose of sale, hire, distribution, public exhibition or putting it into circulation. If the obscene object is kept in a house for private viewing, the accused cannot be charged (for obscenity)."

The court held that the private viewing of an obscene film on a laptop in a bungalow was not tantamount to public exhibition.

The prosecution's argument that the accused were dancing with the bar girls in an obscene manner did not cut ice with the court. The HC said the people were dancing among themselves and not for public exhibition. "Proceedings against the accused (on obscenity charges) will be an abuse of the process of the court," said the judge.
The officers, however, are still charged under provisions of the Bombay Prohibition Act for consuming liquor without a permit.

The case dates back to August 2008, when police raided a bungalow at Taj Cottages in Lonavla's Frichhly Hill. The cops arrested 22 customs officials who were partying along with 11 bar girls. They were charged under section 292 of the Indian Penal Code (for sale, public exhibition of obscene objects) and prohibition laws. If convicted, the accused face a jail term of a maximum of two years. For a second or any subsequent conviction, the accused can be sentenced to a maximum jail term of five years.

The prosecution claimed that the bungalow was a lodge, and a public place. The accused, therefore, were publicly exhibiting the obscene film, the prosecution contended. Senior advocate Adik Shirodkar and advocate Samir Vaidya refuted this and pointed out that it was not the prosecution's case that anyone from the public could have walked into the bungalow. "It was a private party to which the public had no access," the lawyers said.
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