This article is written by Kabir Jaiswal, from National University of Study and Research in Law (NUSRL), Ranchi.


The author is going to discuss the following issues in this article:

  • Is PDA acceptable in our society? 
  • Public display of affection, a nuisance factor? 
  • Where should the line be drawn? 

Public displays of affection or PDAs can include a wide range of romantic activities, from hand- holding to public kissing. Until the behavior is over, it is unlikely to attract the attention of the police and lead to your arrest. However, if you were to engage in bolder behavior, such as sex in a public place like the local beach or park, your chances of being arrested are greatly increased.

Unwritten Rules

Some cringe could be made by PDA, but not others. You are free to do anything you want to do with your partner, but if you want to show affection to the public, just be sure to follow some unwritten regulations.

Experts Perception on PDA

  • Dr. Manish Jain.
  • Dr. Anjali Mehra, a relationship therapist from Mumbai.
  • Psychologist Dr. Leena Bahrani 

Conservativeness of India

We live in a country where urination is acceptable in public, but it is not just a hug between people of different sex. People can quickly assume when they see pairs holding their hands or sitting next to each other. That is people’s inadmissible reaction to simple acts of affection. 

The mentality of the majority of Indians still lacks the simple eagerness to accept that the world is changing and that the people are changing. Holding hands, hugging, holding arms around your shoulder, turning many heads. Many eyes of judgment follow you when you see such totally innocent acts as are considered obscene. Such little affectionate gestures are often a big issue in India.
                     Click Above

Actions amounting to PDA

  • Kiss your partner in a public place with compassion. 
  • Touch your partner’s genitals in a public place. 
  • The action of making out in a public place. 
  • Commission of Sexual intercourse in a public place.
  • Massaging his/her backside.
  • Feeling each other up.

Actions which doesn’t amount to PDA

Idea of Social Morality

As an Indian, the author understands that we are all concerned with values. But the lament that licentiousness and general moral deterioration are increasing is not new in itself.  We find it in all ages and periods, and historians will tell us that these claims should not be considered factual reports. However, if this alarm has an objective basis, should we use force to make “moral” men and women from adults? 

The Supreme Court ‘s words in the case of Khushboo are sobering. It said: “The concepts of social morality are inherently subjective and criminal law cannot be used to interfere unduly with the domain of personal autonomy.” Public display of affection is therefore still highly debatable because of concepts of social morality that do not have a strict definition of standards.

Doctrine of ‘Public Decency’

  • Part of the problem lies in the rapid change in public decency and morality concepts in our society. Several Supreme Court judgments have repeatedly highlighted this. In 1969, in Chandrakant ‘s Kalyandas Kakodkar case, the Court noted that “the standards of contemporary society in India… Change quickly” the observation would be even more useful if it were made today.
  • The central administrative tribunal (the main bench in New Delhi) made a similar point. ” In order to appreciate the impact of Section 294 of the IPC on society today and its standards and changing views of morality, the lower courts should have been sensitive to changing views and concepts of morality.” 

Legal Provisions on PDA

The majority of the suits are filed in accordance with Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which provides for the following ingredients to cover an offense:

  1. An obscene act must have taken place in a public place,
  2. or the act/gesture or song or words were obscene in character; 
  3. and the accused perpetrated his actions and disturbed others.

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

How to determine the term ‘Obscenity’?

To the judicial recognition of the temporal variations in notions of obscenity, we must add that cultural variations also exist in an immensely diverse country such as India. Holding the most vocal or dominant notions of decency and obscenity as the standard Indian notion of decency means that weaker cultures are criminalized today. When changes are taking place, preferences and trends clash and the challenge facing us as academics and administrators is to find new answers to these conflicts.

Milestone Case Laws on ‘Obscenity’

  • Kerala Teens Hugging Case, The Kerala High Court took an initiative and gave the schools some more powers to morally police the behavior of adolescent students in its verdict. A teenager approached the KSCPC( i.e. the Kerala State Child Protection Commission) who instructed the school to continue his studies. The school brought an appeal to the High Court and the Court supported the students ‘ suspension act.
  • Ranjit Udeshi v. the State of Maharashtra, The following comments from the Supreme Court are of the utmost importance in this context: ” The obscenity test must match the freedom of expression and speech guaranteed by the constitution. This calls on the Court to decide on a constitutional issue of the most far- reaching nature and to be careful not to lean too far from the guaranteed freedom.”

Instances of PDA

Since this law does not give explicit definitions of “obscene acts,” police and lower courts are blatantly misused to harass couples. What is obscene and what is not must be clarified and defined urgently. India is a conservative country, and any new developments are bound to shake our systems.

  • 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.
  • Two Swiss tourists had been attacked by 3 teen and 2 adult men near the impressive Fatehpur Sikri fort. The reason they were severely beaten shows the risks of PDA (Public Display of Affection) in India.

PDA Regulation (Indian cities)

  • Mumbai– Under section 110 of the Bombay Police Act 1951, charges may be filed against a couple if they are found to be intimate in public places.
  • Delhi– If a couple is caught intimate or cozy in public places, they are charged with a fine of Rs.50, but it is rarely executed and the police take undue advantage of it when they ask for bribes.
  • Kolkata– The law in Kolkata states that if a couple indulges in any activity involving sexual connotation, they may be charged with an offense under the indecent and obscenity act.
  • Chennai– Chennai couples do not have that freedom as that of couples in other metropolitan cities, but there has been some liberalization in recent times and it is common to see couples holding their hands.

PDA Regulations across the World 


The public display of affection ranges from a mild handshake to compassionate kissing, and the essential element of public annoyance must be established in order to bring an act within the scope of an obscene act punishable under Section 294 of the IPC.

PDAs are intended for the level of affection that can be measured in public spaces as appropriate. As young people, we should know about the difference in this fine line of intimacy on either side.

This country in which we live will only be at the forefront of the world if its people are not held back by such a trivial pursuit and it is equally our responsibility to ensure that this is achieved.

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