The Supreme Court on Friday refused to direct the government to take steps to ensure return of eminent painter M.F. Husain, who has been residing in a Gulf country, to India and withdrawal of cases against him.

A Bench, headed by Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan refused to entertain a petition seeking a direction to the government to withdraw all criminal cases against the 95-year-old artist to ensure his return to the country.

“If he is in Doha, what is the problem,” the Bench queried while asking the petitioner to withdraw his plea.

Husain recently gave up his Indian passport and accepted Qatari citizenship. He has been living in self-exile for nearly four years following a spate of cases in India over his controversial paintings of Hindu goddesses.

“The prayer made in the petition cannot be granted,” the Bench said.

The judges were hearing the petition filed by Jammu and Kashmir Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh in which he had pleaded that the court should ask Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to take steps to bring Husain back to India.

The PIL was filed on February 26, seeking direction to the Centre to withdraw all cases against Husain and ensuring his return to the country.

Mr. Singh, a former MP, had claimed that Husain's fundamental rights stood violated as he was unable to return to India due the 900-odd cases slapped against him.

The PIL referred to an earlier Supreme Court observation in connection with one of the cases against Husain that no exception should be taken to artistic expressions.

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