By Priyanka Agarwal, Chaudhary Charan Singh University.

Moral police is a term which some vigilante group and police use to cover their actions which they perform in order to protect the deemed morality and Indian culture.

The moral policing instead of becoming a good thing has become more like a trend which some vigilant groups and the police follows. They judge every situation by themselves and act accordingly so as to protect the so-called culture of India. They seem to work to protect and establish a sense of morality but in reality they do not protect the deemed morality, rather they interfere with the basic Fundamental Right which the Indian Constitution has provided to every citizen of the nation i.e. Article 21- Right to Life and Personal Liberty.

Everybody has a right to privacy and nobody else has the right to interfere with it. But on the other hand some groups and also the police have started using the term moral policing as a blanket to cover their actions, so that whenever they are questioned about any forced humiliation and interference in a person’s life, they can come up with an excuse of moral policing.

The last two decades or so have been very productive for the moral police. From love jihad to Valentine’s Day vandalisms, to disruptions of film shows and art exhibitions, they have, in this relatively short span, built up an illustrious record of hooliganism and criminal intimidation aimed at stamping out from public view any and all displays of romantic or sexual love between free, private individuals as well as any display of individualism that might challenge the self-appointed guardians of national culture and religious pride.

Section 292 to Section 294[1] of Indian Penal Code deal with obscenity, which the police and the so called vigilant group use as an excuse for their actions. “Obscene” here is defined as that which “appeals to the lascivious or prurient interest” of the person viewing it. But a crucial aspect of this offence is that it should involve a public element. But the police does not exactly understand the importance of the word Public Element. In Lonavala case 2008[2]the police arrested 28 men, including a few customs officers, and 11 women from a bungalow in Lonavala. According to the police, the men were watching pornography on a laptop and throwing money at women who were dancing.The High Court ruled in the Lonavala case that the “obscene dancing by the women” was not an offence since it was “not meant for public exhibition”. “They were dancing among themselves. The dance was not for the purpose of viewing by the general public,” it said.[3]

Another legal act which the police use as an ultimate excuse for raids in hotels and arresting consenting couples is Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 (also known as Prevention of Immoral Traffic Act or PITA) which was originally passed to prevent human trafficking[4].The recent example is recent Mumbai hotel raid where the police arrested 61 people under the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956 and Section 110 of the Bombay Police Act, 1951, which summarily stands for ‘behaving indecently in public’[5]. The police did tick few boxes, ‘couples inside a bedroom’ is equal to ‘indecent’, check; ‘touching’ is equal to ‘disorderly manner’, check and ‘lodges’ is equal to ‘place of public resort’, check. The facts that the ‘couples’ were consenting adults, was overlooked[6].

It is not illegal for a man and woman of major age to be together and spend some private time in a hotel with mutual consent, these men should also understand that everybody has a right to enjoy their life, they should also respect a sense of privacy.  Parents are there to protect and take care of their grown-up children, the moral police does not necessarily need to take each and every matter into their own hands.

Moral police attacks on youth who click pictures with their friends, hold hands, sometimes even married couples are accused of spreading obscenity.

Mohammad Riyaz case in Mangaluru where the youth was accused of posing in objectionable manner on four girls lap. He was kidnapped, accused and beaten and was asked not to engage with Hindu girls[7].

There has been rise in attacks in pubs[8], clubs, parties even married couple who are just holding hands or giving a kiss[9] are being attacked either by the vigilant group or the police. People are humiliated, tortured and attacked violently. Nobody is safe now.

Times are changing, a little modernisation is not bad.  These people who claim to be moral policemen or the police who perform raids at the point to check over immoral acts need to develop some tolerance themselves. To keep a little check is not bad if literally cheap acts are going on like in the recent Mumbai obscenity case[10].

Toleration is the key, when we have agreed to cooperate then what is wrong in expecting a little cooperation back too. Why is it that there has to be tantrums, humiliation, arrests and violence. Sometimes girls are humiliated so badly that they claim to attempt suicide.

The only question is when police already has a code of conduct[11] that there must be interrogation first and then action should be taken in such cases, then why is the police misusing its power and letting others to use it. When during raids couples are humiliated and are dealt with no respect, where is the moral right here.

Various protests have been held against moral policing. In February 2009 a non-violent ‘Pink Chaddi’ campaign was held in which people were urged to mail pink underwear to leader PromodMuthalik and the members of Sri Ram Sena as a Valentine’s Day present as one day in late January 2009, some young women in a pub in the city of Mangalore, in Karnataka, India, were beaten up by members of this group[12].

Another famous non-violent protest is the Kiss of Love which started in Kerala, India and later spread in rest of the parts of India[13].

The so called moral police need to learn about toleration, because at the end everybody deserves a life with dignity and respect. Forcefully interfering in someone’s privacy even when they are not committing any offence makes a person defensive. One has to give respect to get respect in return. So, the police also need to learn that they must not judge every situation instantly, proper code of conduct must be followed and humiliating every time won’t help.

[1] Available at www.indiankanoon.org last seen on 18/08/2015

[2] Available at www.dnaindia.com last seen on 18/08/2015

[3] Available at www.timesofindia.indiatimes.com last seen on 18/08/2015

[4] Available at www.tcw.nic.in last seen on 18/08/2015

[5] Available at www.indianexpress.com last seen on 18/08/2015

[6] Available at www.indianexpress.com last seen on 18/08/2015

[7] Available at www.indiatoday.indiatoday.in last seen on 18/08/2015

[8] Available at www.archive.indianexpress.com last seen on 18/08/2015

[9] Available at http://www.theage.com.au/news/world/indias-moral-police-declare-war-on-decadence/2006/11/10/1162661900519.html last seen on 18/08/2015

[10] Available at http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/mumbai/American-national-tweets-pic-of-man-who-flashed-at-her/articleshow/48527911.cms last seen on 19/08/2015

[11] Available at http://police.pondicherry.gov.in/MHA%20-%20Model%20Code%20of%20Conduct%20-%20Indian%20Police.pdf last seen on 19/08/2015

[12] Available at http://matadornetwork.com/change/indias-pink-chaddi-campaign/ last seen on 20/08/2015

[13] Available at http://www.rediff.com/news/report/whats-keralas-kiss-of-love-protest-all-about/20141029.htm last seen on 20/08/2015