Last month, two friends of mine, a guy and a girl, were jogging in a park around 8 pm, not knowing that the park closes at 7. They were caught by a policeman who demanded to know what they were “actually up to”.
My friend tried explaining that since the gates were not shut and they were new to the city, they weren’t aware of the timings. Even then, the police snatched my friend’s phone away, hit him with his baton and demanded that the two come to the police station with him.
Now, we are all too aware of the moral policing that some authorities impose upon civilians. But as citizens of India, you have certain liberties that cannot be taken away from you. You cannot be fined, penalised or dragged to a police station for these liberties.
Here is a list of six of them:
1. Public Display of Affection
Under Section 294 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), an “obscene act and songs… to the annoyance of others” can invite a fine, imprisonment of up to three months or both.
However, the section neither defines these obscene acts nor specifies whether hugging or kissing are included in the section.
2. Non-motorised vehicles and traffic rules
Cyclists and hand-pulled rickshaws do not have to follow traffic rules. However, the general scene on urban Indian roads is such that you best maintain a single lane on your cycle.
Additionally, it is advised that you follow traffic signals and other rules for your own safety and to avoid annoying others on the road.
3. Unmarried couples can lawfully book hotel rooms
Lawfully, no one can stop you from booking a hotel room, if you and your partner are both consenting adults. Some hotels do stop you at the reception, not letting you book a room together, but the law protects you. Make sure you carry your government approved identity cards that the hotel staff will scan and keep for the record.
4. Live-in relationships
The former point brings us here.
Unmarried couples living together is frowned upon in society, but the law is by your side. If you are seeking to live with your partner but are afraid that the law might be against you, read this article to know more.
5. Only one traffic fine per day
In a few states, you cannot be fined twice in a day for the same offence. As a responsible citizen of India, you have a number of rights as well as duties when riding or driving on the road. When a traffic cop stops you for violating a rule, such as not wearing the helmet for instance, here’s what you should know.
The Indian law does not specify restrictions to videography or photography in public spaces. This, until the subject protests against it or the video/photographer, indulges in an insistent recording.
Charan Reddy, an IPS officer, told The Times of India, “To put it simply, as long as the subject of the photograph doesn’t have a problem, the law doesn’t step in…”
When the subject opposes the recording, the matter becomes a case of harassment. Please note that this law (and the freedom granted by it) is strictly about public spaces. Video or photography in hotels, hostels, bathrooms and even homes without the consent of the subject are strictly unlawful.
Just like the above six things that you cannot be lawfully fined or punished for doing in public, you also have certain responsibilities as a citizen.
Here are five things you can be fined for doing in public places.
1. Smoking in public
You are liable to a penalty if you smoke in public spaces like hospitals, theatres, buses, trains and taxis, among others. While no one can stop you from taking a puff in your own home premises or car, you cannot legally smoke in places where the public gathers in a confined space. Roads and restaurants, bars etc with designated smoking areas are exempt from the rule.
In many parts of India, like Delhi, littering public places will invite a hefty fine.
The National Green Tribune, in December 2016, said, “As per [the] polluter-pays-principle, each person will be liable to pay for causing pollution. It’s the duty of a citizen to ensure that waste is handled properly… The entire burden cannot be shifted on the state and authorities.”
3. Playing loud music
To protect the “health and the psychological well-being of the people”, Indian law has provisions to regulate and control noise pollution that results from loudspeakers, public address systems and even construction activity.
The law has provisions for everything–from the noise that a vehicle makes to industrial and aircraft noise restrictions–and you can read all about it here.
4. Derogatory terms for communities
The right to freedom of expression, the constitution says, is subject to a reasonable restriction which includes respecting ethnic and religious communities and not calling them by derogatory names.
You may also like: Keep Out of Trouble: Here Are Some New Traffic Laws That You Need to Know!
5. Pulling the emergency chain on trains
The emergency brake chain can be used only for valid reasons like accidents. Pulling them without such urgent reasons may cause you to be slapped with a hefty fine or even land you in jail. Indian Railways includes medical emergencies, robbery instances, family member missing the train etc. as “valid reasons”. Read more about the rule here.
6. Piracy & counterfeit goods:
While pirated music and movies are cheap, they are illegal in India. If you still download movie torrents to watch them for free, here’s all you should know about piracy laws in India.
Similarly, selling and purchasing counterfeit goods can invite a penalty. While it may be pocket-friendly to buy these goods with a fake label, remember that you are playing with the law when you do so.
You can read in detail about the law here.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)