Celebrated on February 14th, Valentine’s Day is an occasion for couples to express their affection for one another with greetings, gifts and other gestures. At times, couples also engage in Public Displays of Affection (PDA) such as holding hands, hugging or kissing.
For couples looking to express affection publicly, here is a fact: Did you know that PDA could lead to unexpected legal consequences?
Public display of affection is, in itself, not a crime in India. However, police often use Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which says that the law can punish anyone who annoys other people by:
(a) doing any obscene act in any public place, or
(b) singing, reciting or uttering any obscene song, ballad or words, in or near any public place.
The punishment is imprisonment for up to three months and/or a fine.
The proof of annoyance is essential for committing a crime under Section 294 and PDA can be seen as an obscene act which causes annoyance to other people. It is enough that the obscene act is committed in public and causes annoyance to anybody, whether they are the contemplated victim of the offender or not. The police can arrest anyone accused under Section 294 even without a warrant.
For couples looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day together, consider this a friendly heads-up to avoid unintended consequences!