You might have watched umpteen times couples sitting and chatting in a public park. You might have done it many times too. Have you, in your wildest dreams, ever thought you might be hauled up to the police station as a criminal for that, booked for it and summoned to attend court?
Yes. For Indian police chatting with a person of opposite gender in public places is an offence, unless it’s your spouse, parent or sibling.
Getting the cue from the Police, there are vigilante gangs in most neighbourhoods in towns and villages of India, intruding and disrupting the private life’s of citizens.
See what happened in my town few days ago.
It was on February 24 evening when Prasad and his girlfriend were sitting in the Vadika gardens adjacent to the Palakkad Fort a couple of policemen swooped on them. They wanted to know their relationship status as well as what they were doing there. Though the girl was allowed to go home without revealing her personal details, Mr. Prasad was forcibly taken to the nearest police station. He was allowed to leave the station after a few hours.
On March 23, Mr. Prasad received a summons directing him to appear before the District Magistrate in April second week in connection with the incident. The summons also said he was booked under Section 119 (a) of the Kerala Police Act 2011.
Ironically, the section aims at ensuring a safe environment for women and can be invoked against those who make sexual gestures and engage in acts denigrating the dignity of women.
It also ensures punishment for those who take photographs or record video in a way affecting privacy of women. The punishment includes imprisonment up to three years and a fine of Rs.10,000.
Most probably the court may have a lenient view on chatting in parks and acquit him of made up offences.
But the message from the Indian Police is clear. No chatting by couples in public places. And we are supposed to be living in the 21st century in the biggest democracy of the world.