Italy's Court of Appeal has issued a new hands-off landmark ruling — outlawing men from scratching their crotches in public.

The ruling says that blatant scratching or holding is "an act contrary to decorum and public decency."

Superstitious Italian men often hold or touch their private parts for good luck when they see a hearse or to ward off bad luck, the equivalent of touching wood in Britain.

Italy's Court of Appeal in Rome made the judgement after listening to the appeal of a 42-year-old man from Como who had been fined 200 euros, or $304, for gross indeceny at a hearing in May last year.

His defense lawyer had argued that his client — a mechanic — had been adjusting himself in his overalls and nothing else.

The appeal, however, was overturned by the judges who said in their ruling that: "The touching of genitalia in public is a sign of ill manners and must be considered against public decency.

"The rules of social etiquette require all of us to abstain from what might be considered offensive to public decorum."

The ruling added that touching or scratching below the belt risked causing "awkwardness, disgust and disapproval in the average man."

The man's $304 fine was upheld and he was ordered to pay $1,521 in costs.