The Supreme Court on Wednesday came to the rescue of actress Priya Prakash Varrier, who shot into limelight after her 'wink' video went viral, by staying criminal proceedings against her in some states on the grounds that a song from her film allegedly hurt religious sentiments of the Muslim community.
A bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud also extended similar relief to the director of the Malayalam movie Oru Adaar Love.
Besides staying the existing criminal proceedings, the bench also restrained all state governments from registering any further FIRs against the actress and the director with regard to the promotional video.
It issued notice to the Telangana government and others on a petition from 18-year-old Varrier, who shot to fame after her 'wink video' went viral on internet.
Varrier, a B.Com student from a college in Kerala's Thrissur district, sought protection from an FIR lodged on complaints alleging that the lyrics of the song Manikya Malaraya Poovi from the movie was "offensive" and had "violated the religious sentiment of a particular community".
The actress had moved the apex court seeking quashing of the FIR lodged against her in Telangana and sought the top court's direction to prohibit states from initiating any criminal proceedings against her.
She had said that the FIR was lodged against her on February 14 at Falaknama police station in Hyderabad on a complaint that alleged that the song hurt the religious sentiment of a community.
On the same day, a criminal complaint was also filed by the Secretary of Raza Academy, Mumbai, with the Commissioner of Police to take appropriate action against the petitioners, taking down the video and preventing it from being broadcast, she had said.
"The present petition has been filed as a result of multiple criminal proceedings which have been instituted against the petitioners in the states of Telangana and Maharashtra. The complaint filed is against the song titled Manikya Malaraya Poovi which was released on Youtube as a song of the film. In Telangana, an FIR has already been registered against the director of the movie.
"The criminal complaints have been instituted by various fringe groups based on a distorted and incorrect interpretation of the song in the states of Telangana, Maharashtra and similar complaints are likely from other non-Malayalam speaking states as well," Varrier had said in her plea filed through advocate Pallavi Pratap.
She had said the entire controversy has resulted in the filing of several criminal complaints, while the FIR arises from the lyrics of the song, which is a Mappila song or a traditional number from the Malabar region of Kerala.
The plea had said the claims that it hurt religious sentiments of the Muslim community are "without any basis and what is hard to fathom is that a song which has been in existence for the past 40 years, which was written, sung and cherished by the Muslim community in Kerala is now being treated as an insult to the Prophet and his wife."
"It is submitted that a song, which .... has been cherished by more than one crore Muslim population of Kerala, cannot suddenly offend the religious sentiments of the Muslim community," it had said.
The plea had stated that criminal complaints and registration of FIRs in multiple states on the basis of complaints by "fringe elements who have misunderstood the lyrics of the song which they claim allegedly offended their religious sentiments and that of their community has adversely affected the petitioners right to life, liberty and freedom of expression under the Constitution."
The plea had said the movie is yet to be completed and about Rs. 1.5 crore have been spent on it but such "flimsy and baseless" complaints and FIRs caused "nothing but hindrance to freedom of speech and expression granted under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution" and was "an outright abuse" of the legal process.
"Such acts only result in curbing the freedom expression of people and have also resulted in dragging Varrier, who is a young college student, into a criminal case for merely acting in a movie," it had said.