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SC trashes obscenity charge on Husain

New Delhi, Sept. 8: The Supreme Court today refused to allow prosecution of M.F. Husain on obscenity charges, saying his paintings were “art” and citing how erotic sculptures abounded at Hindu temples.

The apex court threw out an appeal against a May 8 Delhi High Court order that had quashed criminal proceedings against Husain while deploring the “new puritanism” in India.

“There are so many such subjects, photographs and publications. Will you file cases against all of them?” Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan wondered. “What about temple structures?”

He added: “It (Husain’s work) is art. If you don’t want to see it, don’t see it. There are so many such art forms in temple structures.”

The court rejected the argument of the Maharashtra-based complainant that Husain should be summoned before the court with his paintings and asked to explain their meaning.

Husain, 93, has been living in self-imposed exile in Dubai and London for the past two years while a series of cases have been filed against him in India for his nude paintings of Hindu goddesses and Bharat Mata.

On May 8 this year, Delhi High Court had dismissed three criminal complaints against Husain, filed in Bhopal, Indore and Rajkot. Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul had said the allegation that Husain’s paintings were obscene were baseless.

“A painter has his own perspective of looking at things and it cannot be the basis of initiating criminal proceedings against him,” Justice Kaul had observed.

“In India, a new puritanism is being carried out in the name of cultural purity and a host of ignorant people are vandalising art and pushing us towards a pre-renaissance era…. A painter at 90 deserves to be sitting in his home and painting his canvas.”

The three complainants had moved courts in their home states claiming Husain’s nude Bharat Mata had offended Hindu religious sensibilities.

The apex court had clubbed these complaints together on a plea by Husain, who said he was too old and ill to travel to fight the cases, and sent them to the high court in September last year.

Several other cases accusing the painter of hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity between religious groups have also been quashed.

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