Messages sent through personal chats on Whatsapp cannot amount to ‘obscenity’ in public place: no conviction under section-294 IPC

Team SoOLEGAL 16 Mar 2020 3:07pm

Messages sent through personal chats on Whatsapp cannot amount to ‘obscenity’ in public place: no conviction under section-294 IPC

Underpinning that sending offensive personal messages on Whatsapp does not amount to uttering obscene words in public, the Bombay High Court (hereinafter referred to as “the court”) quashed an FIR filed against a man pursuant to Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code, (1860) which provides for three-month imprisonment for obscene acts.

The Court dealt with a plea filed by a man to quash an FIR which was filed against him by his wife on charges that he has assaulted her verbally through Whatsapp by sending abrogatory messages.

The wife of the complainant had alleged that in filthy language he would call her up and harass her. In addition, he was alleged to have sent her abusive personal Whatsapp messages and tried to call and trouble her relatives, which led her to file an FIR under Sections 294, 500, 506 and 507 of the IPC.

Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code deals with any obscene acts made in a public place and imposes imprisonment of three months or fine or both. However, the bench observed that commission of an obscene act is in accordance with section 294 of the IPC if performed at a public place, and in the present case there was no utterance of words in any public place as the messages are sent on social media. The court also noted that Advocate R D Sanap, appearing for police, had not alleged that obscene messages had been posted on the Whatsapp group.

Further, it was contended that in the present case the messages were sent only on personal chat and going through the terms and conditions of the app it is clearly mentioned that no one keeps the record of such personal chats not even Whatsapp itself. It would have been a different scenario if the messages would have been shared in a group where other people can have access to them.

Accordingly, the Court quashed the FIR to the extent of Section 294, IPC and granted the liberty to prosecution to continue investigation against the complainant in respect of the charge under Section 509, IPC.

Tagged: Bombay High Court   Indian Penal Code   Section 294   Whatsapp messages   Advocate R D Sanap  
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