The previous post correctly states my view on this subject. However, no critique of an issue would be justified without putting forth the arguments for the other side. In this post, I try to look at the possible justifications at the sanction against conduct levied by non- state actors in what seems to be immoral according to them.
A year ago, when that actress Shilpa Shetty kissed Richard Gere, the Supreme Court stepped in to quash the charges against her. About a week ago, Justice Muralidhar gave a landmark judgment quashing the charges against a couple kissing in public. The law now seems to be becoming more and more clear as to what kind of conduct is morally permissible, an aspect that is laudatory of the Court.
However, leaving the harm principle as dealt with in the last post aside, is it that the Court is only speaking for the ‘socially elite’ in this circumstance while a major portion of the society still thinks women going to pubs is bad and that public display of affection (PDA) should not be permitted. Are we seeing a difference of opinion between the Court and the society as to what constitutes morally permissible behavior ?
A pub going woman would argue that she has a right to do whatever she wants with her life and that neither the state nor the other members of the society should interfere in this right of hers. Quite true and I agree with her.
But she hardly represents 1 % of the Indian woman population and in a country of more than a billion, she’s a minority. What might constitute moral to her and people like us sitting and surfing the net everyday might not be so to the millions at other places.
Counter questions arise; is the idea of morality to be determined by what a majority of the society think to be so ? Whose morality comes into play when we talk of Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code ? To what extent can the Indian public honor the right to privacy ?
About 3 decades ago when the ‘social elite’ longed to read DH lawerence’s ‘Lady Chatterlee’s Lover’, the Court in Ranjit Udeshi v. Union of India, stepped in and declared the banning of the book constitutionally permissible. Then it was representing the will of the majority that thought such conduct to be immoral. The perceptions of morality keep changing in a dynamic society like ours and perhaps the Ram Sene people should understand that too. But a movement to counter it cannot be successful by sending him ‘pink undergarments’ but only by making a serious effort to develop the perceptions of others as to what can be morally right according to our views.
It is a futile attempt for an English medium student living in an urban town like myself to even try to argue for Muthalik and his activities. I wouldn’t either because I think that he is wrong in all aspects. But the point that I am trying to get across is the idea of moral permissibility that is now creating differing opinions with the Court and the social pub going elite on one side and a majority of the Indian population on the other. Apart from Dworkin’s reasoning, what possible could be a justification for such acts when a vast majority think such conduct is bad ?