Culture · Law · Society

Beauty Contests are not obscene under any Law!

Beauty Contests are not obscene under any Law! [1] That beauty is part of the whole universal expression as understood by one and all. That beauty is the sense or the essence of human comprehension and pleasure is beyond doubt. It is the joy for ever in the acclaimed poetic declaration in literature. That beauty is the best dimension of nature or divine is also a concluded theological postulation The Indian or even Sanatana or ancient Dharmic or religious thinking also mounts beauty into one of the three forms of God viz., (Sathyam (truth), Shivam (good) and Sundaram (beauty). Possibly, no section of human society should be opposed to beauty nor it is opposed. Beauty means “a combination of qualities such as shape, colour etc., that pleases the aesthetic senses especially site, a combination of qualities that pleases the intellect of moral sense (the beauty of the argument), an excellent specimen, an attractive feature, an advantage a beautiful woman”[2]  and “combination of qualities that give pleasure to the senses (especially eye, ear or to the mind)”, “quality that is pleasing to the eye”[3], and “the qualities in a person or thing that give pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exhaled the mind or spirit, loveliness, a beautiful person or thing, especially a beautiful woman, excellent quality[4].

A woman both in the eye of law and the society is not merely a person either in the gender or the existence. She has an inherent personality since birth called ‘womanhood’. A woman is the mother first before having any other status. The age factor is not determinative of the status or the existence of womanhood. A woman is defined in Section 10[5] of the Indian Penal Code denoting female gender of any age. A woman is possessed of a great born virtue called ‘modesty’, to mean ‘womanly propriety of behaviour, scrupulous chastity of thought, speech and conduct (in men or women) reserve or sense of shame proceeding from instinctive aversion to impure or coarse suggestions.”

In Ranjit D. Udeshi v. State of Maharashtra,[6] the meaning of obscenity was described as follows :”….. that 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. In other words, treating with sex in a manner offensive to public decency and morality (and these are the words of our Fundamental Law), judged of by our national standards and considered likely to pander to lascivious, prurient or sexually precocious minds, must determine the result. We need not attempt to bowdlerise all literate and thus rob speech and expression of freedom. A balance should be maintained between freedom of speech and expression and public decency and morality but when the latter is substantially transgressed the former must give way.”

The test of obscenity is adopted from the expressions of Cockburn, C.J., in Hicklin’s case as-

“I think the test of obscenity is thus, whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences and into whose hands publication of this sort may fall. It is quite certain that it would suggest to the minds of the young of either sex, or even to persons of more advanced years, thought of most impure and libidinous character.”

The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986

Indecent representation of women is defined in Section 2(c) of the Act to be repeated herein:

“2. (c) ‘ ‘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 a 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.” If beauty contests depicts a woman in figure, body or part so as to have the effect of being indecent etc., as above, they should amount to indecent representation of women.

Beauty contest in any form in its true sense of the term can be neither obscene nor prohibited under any law as long as it is intended for the welfare of women in all respects and it is intended only as a form of art and entertainment and in a way a sport to select the winners on comparative merit, but if it indecently represents any woman by depicting in any manner the figure of a woman, form, body or any part thereof in such a way so 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 within the meaning of Section 2(c) of the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986. It offends Article 14[7], 21[8] and 51A[9] of the Constitution of India and the international covenants accepted by the UNO in addition to violation of human rights as is understood both under the Constitution and any law relating to protection of human rights and punishable as per law in such cases. It also amounts to public immorality and repugnant and to public opinion offending the dignity of woman and womanhood as a whole and depraves the woman society in particular so as to exploit either for commercialization or for lust. It is also obscene in its true sense of the term as long as it does not conform to the decencies and the moralities as is understood in the Indian society.

End Notes

[1] Appellants: Chandra Rajakumari and Anr. Vs. Respondent: Commissioner of Police, Hyderabad and Ors.

AIR1998AP302

Hon’ble Judge: B.K. Somasekhara, J.

[2] (P.96 L.C. of the Concise Oxford Dictionary New Edition)

[3] (P.32, RC. Webster’s Dictionary-New Revised and expanded Edition)

[4] (P.42, L.C., the Penguin English Dictionary Reprint 1992).

[5] Section 10 in The Indian Penal Code, 1860

10. ” Man”.” Woman”.– The word” man” denotes a male human being of any age; the word” woman” denotes a female human being of any age.

[6] 1965CriLJ8

[7] Article 14 in The Constitution Of India 1949

14. Equality before law The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth

[8] Article 21 in The Constitution Of India 1949

21. Protection of life and personal liberty No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law

[9] Article 51A in The Constitution Of India 1949

51A. Fundamental duties It shall be the duty of every citizen of India (a) to abide by the Constitution and respect its ideals and institutions, the national Flag and the National Anthem;

(b) to cherish and follow the noble ideals which inspired our national struggle for freedom;

(c) to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India;

(d) to defend the country and render national service when called upon to do so;

(e) to promote harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood amongst all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities; to renounce practices derogatory to the dignity of women;

(f) to value and preserve the rich heritage of our composite culture;

(g) to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life, and to have compassion for living creatures;

(h) to develop the scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform;

(i) to safeguard public property and to abjure violence;

(j) to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement .

About the Author

kushKush Kalra

Kush is a practicing lawyer at Delhi High Court. He graduated from Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab, India in 2012 and has authored a book titled – Be Your Own Lawyer.

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