Cabaret dances and Obscenity  – Every one has a question in mind whether semi-nude dances are covered by S. 294 I. P. C. According to that section, “Whoever to the annoyance of others (a) does any obscene act in any public place, or (b) sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term A which may extend to three months, or with fine, or with both.”
According to Ranjit D. Udeshi v. The State of Maharashtra , the test of obscenity is whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to immoral influences, but the test of obscenity must agree with the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under our Constitution. Therefore, sex and nudity in art and literature cannot be regarded as evidence of obscenity without something more. In Chandrakant Kalyandas Kakodhit v. The State of Maharashtra and Others , it was observed that it is a duty of the court to consider the obscene matter by taking an overall view. The concept of obscenity would differ from country to country depending on the standards of morals of contemporary society. What is considered as a piece of literature in, France may be obscene in England and what is considered in both countries as not harmful to public order and morals, may be obscene in our country.
In Chandrakant (supra), the Supreme Court observed that the standards of contemporary society in India are also fast changing. The adults and adolescents have available to them a large number of classics, novels, stories and pieces of literature which have a content of sex, love and romance. In the field of art and cinema also the adolescent is shown situations which even a quarter of century ago would be considered derogatory to public morality, but having regard to changed conditions, are more taken for granted without in any way tending to debase or debauch the mind.
In State of Maharashtra v. Joyce Zee alias Temiko , the dancers entered smoking on the heads of the customers, danced for some time and then invited, them to remove their clothes fill they were left in panties, They went round the tables’, Swished their backs and breasts against the customers, pushed their nipples in the mouths of some and imitated sexual acts. And yet the High Court of Bombay held that no offence under S. 294 was made out. The learned Judge observed that if the State wants to prohibit such cabaret, shows as wrongful exploitation of sex or as socially harmful or indecent, it may enact some special legislation.
Where cabaret shows are prominently advertised people book their seats often in advance and pay excessively to attend those shows for hours with hundreds like them, it would not be possible to convict a cabaret dancer merely because a section of the people not attending such shows equate them, perhaps rightly, with pornography, and feel annoyed and disturbed at the level of entertainment made accessible so openly. Cabarets are shown all over the world and unless there is a special legislation to ban them, it will be a misuse of S. 294 I. P. C., to punish the entertainers and organizers of such shows.
 Appellants: Sadhna Vs. Respondent: State (1982) ILR Delhi 339
Hon’ble Judges/Coram: M.L. Jain, J.
 1965 (2) Cri.L. J. 8
 (1975) 77 B. R. L. J. 218
About the Author
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.