Ker HC | “Mere abusive, humiliating or defamative words by itself cannot attract an offence of obscenity under Section 294 (b) of IPC”; HC quashes proceedings against person who allegedly harassed the Police

Kerala High Court: Mohammed Nias C.P., J., quashed the proceedings against the petitioner for obstructing a police officer from performing his duty. Rejecting the allegation of obscenity against the petitioner for abusing and using humiliating words against the Police officer, the Bench clarified,

“It is to be noted that the test of obscenity under Section 294 (b) of the Indian Penal Code is whether the tendency of the matter charged as obscenity is to deprave and corrupt those whose minds are open to such immoral influences.”

Facts of the Case

The petitioner was accused of committing offence under Sections 283, 294 (b) of Penal Code, 1860 and under Section 117 (e) and 120 (b) of the Kerala Police Act, 2011. The allegation against the petitioner was that while one Unnikrishnan, Civil Police Officer was pasting a sticker on a car which was parked near the “No Parking Board” as a part of his traffic duty, as the car was causing obstruction to the movement of the vehicles, a man in white shirt came and pushed him, angrily shouted him and threatened the CPO and swirled abuses on another Civil Police Officer, one Madhu who was with him.

It was alleged that the complainant was doing his official duty of affixing stickers on the Car and the petitioner caused obstruction to his duty and insulted the Police officer in public.

The petitioner challenged the final report and all proceedings on the ground that it had been submitted by the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Special Branch) before the Kerala States Human Rights Commission that there was a lapse on the part of the police which resulted in the petitioner acting against the officer, as the Civil Police Officer Madhu was in plain clothes and not in his uniform and he was posting sticker on his car. The petitioner contended that not aware of the fact that it was a civil police officer, he had bonafidely questioned the authority of the person.

Opinion and Analysis

Section 117 (a) of the Act, 2011 speaks of threat, obstruction or assault against the police officer with the manifest intention of preventing such officer from discharging his duties.

Noticing that it was undisputed that the Civil Police Officer was not in his uniform, the Bench opined that there was no question of the petitioner knowing that he was a police officer and as a sequel since there was no such knowledge, there could not be any intention for preventing the police officer from discharging his duties. Hence, the Bench held that no offence was made out under Section 117(e) of the Police Act. With regard to the offences alleged under section 283 IPC as well as 120(b) of the Kerala Police Act, both of which deals with penalty for causing nuisance or obstruction to public by any person in charge of the vehicle, the Bench held that since the petitioner had already remitted the fine imposed for parking the car in a “No Parking Area” no further penalty or punishment was warranted.

Abusive Words v/s Obscenity

Noticeably, the complaint, statements and the final report did not mention exactly as to the words or statement uttered by the petitioner so as to warrant attracting ingredients of offence under Section 294 (b) of the Penal Code, 1860. Hence, the Bench held that absence of words which would involve some lascivious elements arousing sexual thoughts or feelings or words cannot attract the offence under Section 294 (b). As none of the records disclosed the alleged words used by the accused, the Bench stated that mere abusive, humiliating or defamative words by itself cannot attract an offence under Section 294 (b) Penal Code, 1860.

Mandatory for Police Officials to be in Uniform

Emphasising on the necessity of the police force to wear the uniform while in duty, the Bench stated that the uniform of a police man is his direct identification as a policeman in uniform is visible and a citizen immediately knows that he is a police man which will inform that the said individual is in charge of his protection and prevention of offences.

Considering the instances where the Court itself had to remind the police officers to appear in the Court in full uniform in the course of their official duty, the Bench stated that the requirement of the police officer to wear uniform while in duty is to be enforced without exception in compliance with Sections 43 and 44 of the Kerala Police Act which states that the uniform or the vehicles used by the police that it has to be distinctive, exclusive and easily identifiable.

Conclusion and Directions

Opining that the continuance of the proceedings will be a sheer abuse of the process of the court, as no purpose will be served by a trial in the aforesaid circumstances and to secure the ends of justice, the Bench quashed the final report along with the proceedings.

Additionally, the Bench directed the State Police Chief to look into the matter and issue appropriate directions to ensure that the police officers comply with the relevant statutory provisions/guidelines making it mandatory to wear the uniform while on duty except when it is permissible under law to deviate from the said mandatory requirement. The Registry was directed to send a copy the judgment to the State Police Chief for necessary and further to submit an action taken report before the Registry within four months. [Avinash v. State of Kerala, 2021 SCC OnLine Ker 4155, decided on 05-11-2021]


Kamini Sharma, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.


Appearance by:

For the Petitioner: Advocate Thiyyannoor Ramakrishnan, Advocate Arun Kumar.P and Advocate Ambika Radhakrishnan

For the State of Kerala: Public Prosecutors, A.S. Dheeraj & Smt. Maya M.N.

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