Obscenity – Legal Provisions in India

Aug 24, 2020

The words obscene and obscenity have not been defined clearly in the Indian Penal Code. Section 292 of IPC only states that if any material taken as a whole, is lascivious or appeals to prurient interestand tends to deprave and corrupts the persons who read, see or hear the matter contained will come under the ambit of obscenity. Further, Section 294 of IPC punishes a person for committing an obscene act in public.

Information and Technology Act also gives provisions to prohibit obscene content in electronic form. Section 67 of the ITAct gives punishment for publishing obscene material in electronic form. It isto be noted that any obscenity in electronic form can only be tried under the IT Act and not under IPC as section 81 of the IT Act talks about its overriding effect over other laws.

Sections 2, 3 & 4 of the Indecent Representation of Woman Prohibition Act, 1986 also deal with the prohibition of such instances. The Cable Television Network Regulation Act, 1995, prohibits the telecast of obscene content on television. Further, Sections 4 and 5A of Cinematographs Act, provides that the films should be examined before release.

Tests for Obscenity

1.    Hicklin test

The Hicklin’s test was laid down in English law in the case of Regina v. Hicklin. On Application of Hicklin’s test, a publication can be judged for obscenity based on the isolated part of the work considered out of context. While applying Hicklin’s test the work is taken out of the whole context of the work and then it is seen that if that work is creating any apparent influence on most susceptible readers, such as children orweak-minded adults.

2.    Roth Test

In 1957, a new test was developed by US courts to judge obscenity in case of Roth v. the United States. In this case, it washeld that only those sex-related materials which had the tendency of exciting lustful thoughts were found to be obscene. The same has to be judged from the point of view of an average person by applying contemporary community standards. This test was sharper and narrower than the Hicklin’s test as it does not isolate the alleged content but limits itself to the dominant theme of the whole material and checks whether, if taken as a whole, it has any redeeming social value or not.


The Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999(FEMA) is an act of the Parliament of India to “consolidate and amend the law relating to foreign exchange for the purpose of facilitating external trade and payment and to promote the orderly development and maintenance of foreign exchange. Market.” “In” it was a rare commodity. FERA proceeded on the assumption that all foreign exchange rights acquired by Indian residents belonged to the Government of India and were handed over to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and surrendered. FERA Chief prohibits all transactions. All transactions permitted by the RBI. [All] The Act commits offences related to foreign exchange civil offences. It spread across India in place of FERA, which had become inconsistent with the liberalization policies of the Government of India. With this, it enabled a new foreign exchange management regime in line with the emerging framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO). This led to the development of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, which came into force from 1 July 2005.

FEMA is a regulatory mechanism which enables the Reserve Bank of India to pass regulations, and the central governmentpasses regulations related to foreign exchange in line with India’s foreign trade policy.