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What is Pornography: Legal Perspective in India

Updated: Apr 14, 2020

19th march, 2017, New Delhi

Pornography is not defined in any statute of India. It is defined indirectly as photography or videography which is obscene. The word obscene material is used indirectly to refer pornographic material. The obscenity is mentioned in Section 292 of Indian Penal Code. "a book, pamphlet, paper, writing, drawing, painting, representation, figure or any other object, shall be deemed to be obscene if it is lascivious or appeals to the pruri­ent interest or if its effect.’’

In attempt to define pornography lets see what supreme court thinks is obscene.

In Ranjit D. Udeshi vs State Of Maharashtra ( 1965 AIR 881, 1965 SCR (1) 65), where court approved test laid down by Cockburn,. C.J. laid down the test of obscenity in these words "I think the test of obscenity is this, whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral (1) (1868) L.R. 3 Q.B, 360 influences, and into whose hands a 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, thoughts of a most impure and libidinous character."

However, with time the court disapproved above Hickley test and approved Standard community test to define obscenity

In Director General, Directorate General of Doordarshan v. Anand Patwardhan, 2006 (8) SCC 433, this Court noticed the law in the United States and said that a material may be regarded as obscene if the average person applying contemporary community standards would find that the subject matter taken as a whole appeals to the prurient interest and that taken as a whole it otherwise lacks serious literary artistic, political, educational or scientific value

In a recent judgment of this Court, Aveek Sarkar v. State of West Bengal, 2014 (4) SCC 257, this Court referred to English, U.S. and Canadian judgments and moved away from the Hicklin test and applied the contemporary community standards test. Context and background test of obscenity. Information which is posted in such a context or background which has a consequential effect of outraging the modesty of the pictured individual.

To conclude we can say in India pornography is obscenity in a more aggravated form.

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