India couple's kiss 'not obscene'

A court in India has dismissed criminal proceedings against a married couple charged with obscenity for allegedly kissing in public in the capital.

The Delhi high court judge wondered how an "expression of love by a young married couple" could attract an obscenity charge.

Police arrested the couple – a 28-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman – for kissing near a station last September.

Public displays of affection are still largely taboo in India.

The police in Delhi had begun criminal proceedings against the couple for "sitting in an objectionable position near a metro (railway station) pillar and kissing due to which passersby were feeling bad".

The maximum punishment for committing an "obscene act" is three months in prison.

Judge S Muralidhar quashed the criminal proceedings.

He said that even if police reports were accurate "it is inconceivable how… an expression of love by a young married couple would attract an offence of obscenity and trigger the coercive process of law".

The judge expressed surprise that the couple had been picked up and charged by police despite officers being told that they were married.

Controversies

Reports say the couple denied in their petition to the court they were kissing. They said they were taking self portraits on their mobile phones.

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The lawyer who contested the case for the couple told a Delhi newspaper: "Obscenity charges are attracted when an act is so obscene that it encourages depravity or annoys the public.

"In this case both these contents are missing, because the charge sheet is silent on any passersby as originally claimed."

Kissing in public in India has triggered controversies in the past.

In 2007, Hollywood actor Richard Gere sparked protests in India after kissing Celebrity Big Brother winner and Bollywood actor Shilpa Shetty at an Aids awareness rally in Delhi.

The protesters said Gere had insulted Indian culture by kissing the hand and face of the actress.

In 2005, a court in Rajasthan imposed a fine of $22 on an Israeli couple for kissing after getting married in a traditional Hindu ceremony in Pushkar.

Priests were offended when the couple kissed and hugged during the chanting of religious verses.

In 2004, Bollywood film star Kareena Kapoor began legal proceedings against a tabloid newspaper that published photos of her kissing her co-star.

She and Shahid Kapoor said the photos were doctored and were not of them.