Think Learn & Perform (TLP)

The Only Dedicated Platform for UPSC Mains Answer Writing

Day 19 – Q 5.What are your views on public display of affection by couples? Substantiate your views.

5. What are your views on public display of affection by couples? Substantiate your views. 

जोड़ों द्वारा प्रेम के सार्वजनिक प्रदर्शन पर आपके विचार क्या हैं? अपने विचारों को सारगर्भित करें।


Public display of affection is an act that displays a person’s affection for another person which could be either verbally or physically irrespective of gender.


  • Public display of affection depends on the decision of the couple. Individual and societal views on Public display of Affection vary significantly. Such display may sometime be considered to be in bad taste, while in some jurisdictions such display may even be criminal.
  • Many places in Europe like France and Spain, PDA is considered to be part of their everyday culture and being demonstrative in public is considered perfectly normal: people kiss and hug when they meet in the street, friends walk around arm-in-arm or holding hands, couples kiss — and it’s nothing out of the ordinary. 
  • However, if the same happened in India, they would be fed to the wrath of Moral Policing, who are informal neighborhood groups that enforce fundamentalist Religious views. For example, beating up couples engaging in public displays of affection.

Legal provision in India

Majority of the suits in India against PDA are filed under Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code(IPC) which gives the following ingredients to bring an offense within its purview

  • An obscene must have been done in public place; or
  • The act or song or ballad or words were obscene; and
  • Their acts were done by the accused causing annoyance to others.

The guilty is punished with an imprisonment of three months which may extend, or with fine or with both.

  • The landmark case of “Zafar Ahmad Khan v The State” the Allahabad High Court held that the element of causing annoyance to others must be established. An act of uttering the obscene words in public places which can cause annoyance to the general public will bring the conviction against the accused.

One may argue that every Indian has the right to freedom of speech and expression. Then they can jolly good engage in Public display of affection without any problem.

  • However, things get tricky here. Though all citizens of India have been granted the right of freedom and expression in Part III of the Constitution, yet this right is not an absolute right. The right to freedom of speech and expression of the people engaged in public display of affection can be restricted on grounds of decency under Article 19(2) of the Constitution.
  • Having said that, part of the difficulty arises from the fact that notions of public decency and morality in our society have been rapidly changing. Western culture is getting infused within Indians on a rapid basis. The observations on people made today would not be apt if we compare it with the 1940’s.
  • Moreover, it is true that ‘Community Standards’ are often taken by the judiciary as the measure to decide if an act is indecent.
  • For example, in 2007, when actor Richard Gere kissed Shilpa Shetty in an AIDS awareness event in New Delhi, a warrant for his arrest was issued by an Indian court. People burnt effigies of Gere and Shetty for publicly embracing in a “sexually provocative” way.
  • Example against moral policing is the “Kiss of Love” protests: Demonstrators have gathered to openly kiss, caress, hug, and otherwise show affection from the city of Kochi in the south to New Delhi in the north, with the explicit aim of challenging the “moral police.


Moral policing is mostly about defending traditional control over women and not so much about public decency, whose limits change over time. Kissing could be both a blessing and a curse for India’s women: Some have used the Kiss of Love protests to demand gender equality, but the demonstrations have also reportedly elicited online rape threats. The problem is that the law doesn’t talk explicitly about PDA instead, in vague terms leaving behind enough scope for it to be misused. Therefore, an exhibitionist and persons hugging in public fall in the same category. There is an urgent need to clarify and define what is obscene and what is not. India is a conservative country and anything new that creeps up is bound to startle our systems.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email