Staff Reporter

High Court restraint on award for M.F. Husain

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The State Government will go in appeal against Wednesday’s decision of the Kerala High Court to temporarily stay the awarding of the Raja Ravi Varma Award to noted painter M.F. Husain.

Cultural Affairs Minister M.A. Baby told journalists here on Wednesday that the decision of the award committee, headed by artist Vivan Sundaram, in selecting Mr. Husain for the award was appropriate and laudable.

“What Raja Ravi Varma did to promote art in his days, M.F. Husain is doing now,” Mr. Baby said.

Yet to confirm date

In reply to a question, the Minister said Mr. Husain had not confirmed a date for his arrival in Kerala.

Asked about the protests by Sangh Parivar organisations against the selection of Mr. Husain for the award, Mr. Baby said that such protests were, at best, sporadic.

Interim order

Special Correspondent writes from Kochi: Earlier in the day, a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court had restrained the State Government from conferring the award on Mr. Husain on September 17. The Bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice K.T. Sankaran passed the interim order on a public interest litigation filed by Ravi Varma from Ernakulam.

The court ordered that the interim order would remain in force until the petition was disposed of. The court prima facie observed that the averments in the writ petition were to be considered in detail and depth. According to the petitioner, no guidelines had been made for selecting the artist for the award.

The award, instituted by the State Government, is given annually to persons who have made outstanding contributions to the field of painting and sculpture in the State. And Mr. Husain did not belong to the State.

The petitioner alleged that Mr. Husain had “abused the freedom of expression by drawing Bharat Mata and Hindu gods and goddesses in a vulgar and beastly manner.” He had denigrated Hindu religion and faith. Though the petitioner had made many representations, the Government had not withdrawn the award. The decision to confer the award on the painter would affect the sentiments of a large number of people. Describing the decision as a blow to the memory of renowned artist Raja Ravi Varma, the petitioner said the existing procedure for selecting the artist was vague and prone to abuse.

It was bound to breed large-scale nepotism and favouritism. The decision had violated the fundamental duties under Article 51A of the Constitution.