Obscenity under Indian Penal Code

Criminal Law Indian Penal Code LAW EXPLAINED
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Under Indian Penal Code, the word ‘obscene’ and obscenity have not been defined clearly. Section 292 of IPC only states that if any material takin as a whole is sex-oriented or appeals to sex-obsessed thought and tends to give sick ideas to ruins the people who read, see or hear the matter contained will come punishes a person for committing an obscene act in public.

Information and Technology Act also gives legal rules to prohibit obscene content in electronic form. Section 67 of the IT Act gives punishment for publishing obscene material in electronic form can only be tried under the IT Act and not under IPC as section 81 of IT Act; it talks about its most important effect over other law.

Section 2(c), three & four of the Indecent Representation of Woman Prohibition Act, 1986 also deal with the prohibition of such events. The Cable Television Network Regulation Act, 1995, prohibits the telecast of obscene content on television. Further, section four and 5A of the Cinematographs Act, provides that the film should be examined before release.

Tests of Obscenity

  • Hicklin Test

The Hicklin test was first brought down in English Law under the case of Regina V. Hicklin. On the application of Hicklin’s test, a book, magazine, etc. can be judged for cruse word offensive things based on the far part of the big picture. While applying the Hicklin test the work is taken out of the complete big picture of the work and then it is seen if that work is creating any obvious influence on most able to be harmed or influence readers, such as children or weak-minded adults.

  • Roth Test

In 1957, a new test was developed by US courts to judge cruse words and high offensive words in the case of Roth V. United States. In this case, it was held that only those sex-related materials had the habits of exciting through were found to be obscene and the same has to be judged from an average person by applying modern community standards. This test was sharper and narrower than the Hicklin’s test as it does not separate far from other the possible content but limits itself to the most in control theme of the whole material and checks whether, if taken as a whole, it has any redeeming social value or not.

Opinion of Indian Courts

India judges and the court system for the first time defines obscenity in the case of Ranjit D. Udeshi v. The State of Maharashtra. In this case of Hon’ble Supreme Court watched that the test of obscenity is, whether the habit of the matter charged as obscene is to give sick ideas to and dishonest in a way that ruins your trust those whose minds are open to socially wrong influence, but the test of obscenity must agree with the freedom of speech and expression promised that something will happen or that something will work as described under our Constitution. Therefore, sex and nudity in art books cannot be thought of as events or objects that prove something of obscenity without something more.


Summarizing up, the world obscene and obscenity are not defining under IPC. The courts take the pain repeatedly to decide whether an act is obscene or not. The deciding factor like public decency, a social sense of right and wrong and cultural difference keep changing with time. Besides, to be kept in mind is that obscenity is not protected under the freedom of speech and expression clause of the Constitution, therefore, the court has always stressed the need to help increase a culture of open conversation until and unless it affects the community of people. Besides all this, at an individual level, caution and being a little responsible can prevent you from falling hunted animals of such problems. Prevention is always better than cure.

This blog is written by Abhay Srivastava, K.R. Mangalam University.

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