This article sheds light on the recent Moral policing of Kannada Actress Samyuktha Hegde in Bengaluru and the laws guiding Public nuisance and decency and on other hand insulting the modesty of a woman. We will understand in short about moral policing, obscene acts, modesty and what insults the modesty of a woman.
Samyuktha Hegde’s Incident
On the evening of 4th September 2020 Kannada and Tamil Actress Samyuktha Hegde along with her two friends were practicing hula hoops and working out in Agara Lake in Bengaluru, apparently an elderly lady recognized as Kavitha Reddy spokesperson of congress party and an activist attacked her for wearing sports bra. A mob instigated by Kavitha Reddy accused the actress of being indecent in public for wearing workout clothes.
Samyuktha Hegde recorded the entire altercation on Instagram live and stated that the mob was heckling and harassing her, as well as calling her a drug user.
Moral policing is an umbrella category of vigilante groups which act to enforce a code morality. Even though there are universal moral values, they differ from person to person. Moral policing involves imposing values one thinks that are right on other through coercive measures. usually it is mostly seen in cases where conservative group form to protect their culture. for example; cow vigilantist , romeo squad, khap panchayats and many more can be seen in India.
Incidents of moral policing
In early 1990’s, a women’s separatist organisation called Dukhatran-e-millat in Jammu and Kashmir, began forcing local women to cover their faces and threatening them with acid attacks.
In September 2005, a fatwa against tennis player Sania Mirza was issued by a cleric named Haseeb-ul-hasan Siddiqui of Sunni Ulema Board. The fatwa said that her attire on tennis court and billboard advertisement were UnIslamic
Kavitha Reddy alleged the Actress for not showing decency in public park and “Stripping off in public”. In Indian Penal Code it be could covered under Public Nuisance under section 268 and obscene Acts under section 294.
Public Nuisance Section 268
A person is guilty of Public nuisance who does any act or is guilty of any illegal omission which causes any common injury, danger or annoyance to public or to the public who dwell or occupy property in vicinity or which must necessarily cause injury,obstruction, danger or annoyance to persons who may have occasion to use any public property.
In Ram Autar Versus State of Uttar Pradesh
Auctioning Vegetables was being carried out by appellants. The auction used to block roads which interfered with physical comfort of community residing in vicinity and was held to be public nuisance.
Obscene Acts and Songs Section 294
To establish conviction under this section following must be satisfied.
(1) Obscene act must be done in public or recitation or utterance of song or words in or in vicinity of public place.
(2) Annoyance has been caused as a consequence.
In present Samyuktha Hegde Situation the actress was wearing a Sports wear which in my opinion could not be obscene and no public annoyance was established due to her working out in a park. Nowhere does the Constitution or any statute restrict people in a public place to workout or hula hoop. In fact, the often-debated, Article 21 (right to life and personal liberty) is the soul of the Constitution document.
Samyuktha Hegde contends that her modesty was insulted.
Modesty means sexual dignity which is acquired by her since the time of her birth. The word ‘insult’ refers to a situation where a woman is made feel ashamed of her sexual dignity. It may be done by passing gestures, sounds or saying words to her. In a Delhi Court it has been held that even showing a middle finger to a women insults her modesty. The concept of modesty is subjective to every women and there cannot be the boundaries to judge the sexual honor of a woman. In the Present case Kavitha Reddy used words like “nanga nach” (naked dance) for the actress which is covered under section 509 of Indian Penal Code.
Whoever, intending to to insult the modesty of any woman, utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that gesture or object shall be seen, by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, and also with fine.
On 6th of September the AICC member Kavitha Reddy issued a Public Apology to the Actress.
The actress, who was disturbed the incident asked what wrong did they do that she and her friend had to go with such trauma after being shamed in public.”It’s high time we question such behaviour where people play moral police and torture us for no reason. And we hear of such incidents so often”. said Samyuktha Hegde.