Taking Video of An Act Done Publicly Will Not Violate Privacy : Kerala HC Quashes Charges Against Students Alleged to Have Posted Videos of Teacher Online [Read Order]

Taking Video of An Act Done Publicly Will Not Violate Privacy : Kerala HC Quashes Charges Against Students Alleged to Have Posted Videos of Teacher Online [Read Order]

Necessarily, when one complains into the right of transgression into the privacy, it presupposes the existence of a private act or an act which was within the notice of public. When an act is done openly in the presence of other persons, it is doubtful whether the publication of that may constitute an offence, held the Court.

 The charge-sheet filed against ten students on the allegation that they had violated the privacy of a woman professor of their college by capturing videos of her and posting them in social media, was quashed by the High Court of Kerala. The students and the professor belonged to the Nehru College of Engineering, Pampadi, which had got embroiled in controversy following the suicidal death of a student Jishnu Pranoy, allegedly due to the harassment of college management. The suicide of Jishnu had led to protests by students within college premises. The banners erected by protesting students were removed by the said professor. The act of professor removing protest banners was captured in mobile cameras by some students, and videos were posted in social media.  Alleging that the act of posting her videos invaded her privacy and caused mental agony, the professor lodged  a complaint. She also alleged that she was abused by the students.  Accordingly, FIR was registered and charge-sheet was filed, alleging commission of offences punishable under Section 119(b) of the Kerala Police Act and Section 294(b) of the Indian Penal Code

 As per Section 119(b) of the Kerala Police Act, taking photographs or records or videos and propagating them at any place in a manner affecting the reasonable privacy of a woman is an offence. Adv. Legith T. Kottakkal , the counsel of the students, contended that the provision was absolutely vague, as what constituted “reasonable privacy of a woman” was not adequately defined. Therefore, police was given wide powers to initiate criminal proceedings. Justice Sunil Thomas, the single judge dealing with the matter, did not delve much into that aspect since the constitutionality of the provision was not under challenge. However, the judge noted that the Supreme Court inShreya Singhal case had held that vague laws offend several important values.

 The court (Supreme Court), relying on Kartar Singh V. State of Punjab [(1194) 3 SCC 569] held that vague laws may trap the innocent by not providing fair warning. Consequently, in the absence of a clear definition as to what is meant by a transgression into the privacy of a person, the conduct of the petitioner cannot ex post facto be brought within the campus of offending a statutory provision, observed the Court

 The Court further noted that the acts which were videographed were openly done, in public view of others. Therefore, there cannot be an offence of invasion of privacy by video graphing and publication of such acts.

 The acts videographed and published were the acts which were done by her in open, in the college ground, and in the presence of several other persons, as is discernible from the complaint itself. Necessarily, when one complains into the right of transgression into the privacy, it presupposes the existence of a private act or an act which was within the notice of public. When an act is done openly in the presence of other persons, it is doubtful whether the publication of that may constitute an offence, held the Court.

Offence under Section 294(b) IPC attracted only if words uttered have sexual or lascivious connotation.

 The Court held that offence under Section 294(b) of  Indian Penal Code was not sustainable against the petitioners. Mere utterance of abusive words will not constitute offence of uttering obscene words under Section 294(b). For that, the words uttered should have a sexual or lascivious connotation. The complaint had no allegation that the students had uttered such words.

The offence under Section 294(b) cannot be imported in the present conduct at all. In Latheef V. State of Kerala (2014 (2) KLT 987) this Court held that to attract offence under Section 294(b), the act alleged must have a sexual content or must have a lascivious element involved. Even by a remote stretch of imagination it cannot be extended to this case, held the Court

Read the Order Here