Husain deserves to be home and painting, says court

Staff Reporter

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court on Thursday quashed proceedings against painter M.F. Husain in three cases where the complainants had alleged that he had hurt the sentiments of the nation by painting “Bharat Mata” in the nude. The allegations were declared “baseless.”

Passing the order, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said paintings were a matter of perspective and cannot be the basis for initiating criminal proceedings.

Mr. Justice Kaul also observed that frivolous and vexatious complaints, which impinge on the basic freedom of an individual, should be scrutinised in a strict manner at the magisterial level itself. It should be ensured that the criminal justice system was not misused, he noted.

Mr. Husain’s counsel Akhil Sibal said, of late, there have been many cases where famous personalities have been subjected to harassment as court proceedings based on frivolous complaints have been initiated against them at various places.

While the court could not do anything about it as it can only apply the law, it was for the legislature to come up with measures which can provide protection to people who were being thus harassed, the court said.

About nonagenarian Husain, who has been living in a self-imposed exile, the court said “the painter deserved to be at home and painting.”

Seven cases were registered against Mr. Husain in the 1990s at various places in the country.

“The cases which were quashed today [Thursday] had been registered at Indore, Bhopal and Pandherpur (Maharashtra). In another case, registered at Rajkot in Gujarat, the High Court has already sent the case file back to the lower court saying there was no application of mind while taking cognisance of the complaint,” said Mr. Sibal.

In the cases that have been quashed, the High Court had earlier exempted Mr. Husain from personal appearance and also prevented framing of any notice by the lower court, virtually staying the proceedings, said Mr. Sibal. The other three cases were registered at Delhi, Hardwar and another one at Pandherpur.

Earlier, all the cases registered against Mr. Husain were clubbed together following a Supreme Court direction on the painter’s petition and were being heard in a Patiala House court.

The main plea of Mr. Husain in all the cases had been that his works were not intended to hurt the sentiments of any community or nation.

The painter had also argued that most of the complaints were preceded by orchestrated campaigns targeting him.

Moreover, when the controversy had first broken out, he had immediately withdrawn the painting from a charity auction and had also apologised in case he had hurt the sentiments of anybody, Mr. Husain had told the court.

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