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(Article) CSM - December 2012: Indecent Representation of Women Act.

Indecent Representation of Women Act

The Union Cabinet on 11 October 2012 approved the introduction of Amendments to the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 in Parliament under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The amendments proposed are as:

Broaden the scope of the law to cover the audio-visual media and material in electronic form which includes Internet, satellite- based communication, multi-media messaging and cable television, among others.

Penalties to be enhanced to a maximum of three years of imprisonment and fine of between 50000 to 100000 Rupees for first conviction, and imprisonment of not less than two years, but which may extend to seven years, and a fine between 100000 Rupees to 500000 Rupees for second conviction.

Police officers not below the rank of Inspectors authorized to carry out search and seizure, in addition to State and Central Government officers authorized by the State or Central Government. The Act was enacted in 1986 to prohibit the indecent representation of women through advertisement, publication, writing, and painting or in any other manner. With the increased use of advanced technology and communication devices in everyday life, the Government felt the scope of the Act should be amended. The amendments were introduced after consultations with stakeholders, including lawyers and civil society organisations, on the draft Bill.

Some Facts about Indecent representation of women Act:

The act under its ambit covers:

Advertisement which includes any notice, circular, label, wrapper or other document and also includes any visible representation made by means of any light, sound, smoke or gas.

Distribution which includes distribution by way of samples whether free or otherwise. Indecent representation o f women means the depiction in any manner of the figure of a woman; her form or body or any part thereof in such way as to have the effect of being indecent, or derogatory to, or denigrating women, or is likely to deprave, corrupt or injure the public morality or morals.

Label means any written, marked, stamped, printed or graphic matter, affixed to, or appearing upon, any package. Package includes a box, a carton, tin or other container. The Union Cabinet has consented to amend the “Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986” in Parliament broadening its scope and imposing stricter penalties. This law aims at curbing indecent representation and increased objectification of women through advertisement, publication, writing and painting or in any other manner.

In view of modern communication channels development of newer forms of communication such as internet and satellite-based communication, multimedia messaging, cable television etc. , a need was felt to address such media such as mms and internet- based platforms which indulge in spreading messages, pictures and representations denigrating the honour of women. By covering these newer forms of communications, more effective protection was sought for.

Some of the major changes effected will be:

(1) Audio-video and electronic media covered

(2) Enhanced penalties

  1. First Conviction - three years of imprisonment and fine of between Rs.50,000 to Rs.1,00,000 
  2. Second Conviction imprisonment of not less than two years, but which may extend to seven years, and a fine between Rs.1,00,000 to Rs.5,00,000

(3) Authorised government officers and police officers not below the rank of Inspectors authorized to carry out search and seizure.

Some relevant Acts which supplements Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986:

  1. Press and Registration of Book Act 1867
  2. The Information Technology Act, 2000: This Act has made provisions against indecenet and inappropriate representation of women.

Section 67 of the IT Act reads as under:

“Whoever publishes or transmits or causes to be published in the electronic form, any material which is lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest or if its effect is such as to tend to deprave and corrupt persons who are likely, having regard to all relevant circumstances, to read, see or hear the matter contained or embodied in it, shall be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to five years and with fine which may extend to one lakh rupees and in the event of a second or subsequent conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to ten years and also with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees. The important ingredients of an offence under section 67 are publishing, or transmitting, or causing to be published, pornographic material in the electronic form.”

3. The Indian Penal Code 1960 contains S. 292 which deals with the sale of obscene books, pamphlet, inter alia representation which shall be deemed to be “lascivious or appeals to the prurient interest”, which can include obscene advertisements.

4. In Young Person’s (Harmful Publications ) Act,1956 , harmful publications pretty much covers this aspect.

5. Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995: The Cable Television Networks (Regulation) Act, 1995 prohibits the transmission of advertisements which derides any race, caste, color, creed and nationality. In  Rule 7 (2) (vi) it states that no advertisement shall be permitted which, “in its depiction of women violates Constitutional guarantee to all citizens. In particular, no advertisement shall be permitted which portrays a derogatory image of women. Women must not be portrayed in a manner that emphasizes passive, submissive qualities and encourages them to play a subordinate, secondary role in family and society.

6. Article 21 of the Constitution -Art.21 makes the enforcement of the laws possible by the initiation of a writ petition in the Supreme Court or High Courts under Art.32 and Art.226 respectively.

7. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has recognized that human beings have dignity inseparable from them.

IMPORTANT CASE LAW

  1. In the landmark case of Ranjit D. Udeshi Vs. State of Maharashtra, a book-seller was booked under IPC for selling unedited and unexpurgated editions of “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”. In this case the court laid down what has come to be known as ‘test of obscenity”. It says that obscenity must not be judged by a word, here or a passage there. The work as a whole must be  looked into and seen as to how it impacts the society, readers as a whole. In the words of the court, “Where, obscenity and art are mixed, art must so preponderate as to throw the obscenity into a shadow or the obscenity so trivial and insignificant that it can have no effect and may be overlooked. It is necessary that a balance should be maintained between “freedom of speech and expression” and “public decency or morality”; but when the latter is substantially transgressed the former must give way.”

  2. In the case of Chadrakant Kalyandas Kakodar Vs. State of Maharashtra, it held that there was no fixed rules to determine obscenity.”The concept of obscenity would differ from country to country depending on the standards of morals of contemporary society.”

As per Section 1 of the “Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986 :

  • “indecent representation of women” means the depiction in any manner of the figure of a woman; her form or body or any part thereof in such way as to have the effect of being indecent, or derogatory to, or denigrating women, or is likely to deprave, corrupt or injure the public morality or morals.” The medium for earlier representation were:
  • notice, circular, label, wrapper or other document and also included any visible representation made by means of any light, sound, smoke or gas;
  • “label” meaning any written, marked, stamped, printed or graphic matter, affixed to, or appearing upon any package
  • “package” including a box, a carton, tin or other container;

The Amendments have broadened the scope of the audio-visual media and materials in electronic form and enhanced penalties. Now advertisement in any form- mobile Clip or CD will invite strict punishment. It is pertinent to note that The National Commission for Women has the power to initiate actions against the indecent Representation of Women.

Md. Israr

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