SC Provides Relief to Priya Varrier, Director in Viral Wink Row

The Supreme Court, on Wednesday, 21 February, ordered a stay on all criminal proceedings against Malayalam actress Priya Prakash Varrier as well as producer and director of film 'Oru Adaar Love' Omar Lulu, a week after the Falaknama police in Hyderabad registered an FIR against the filmmaker. The court also directed that no FIR can be lodged in the future in any state against them for allegedly hurting religious sentiments of Muslims.

The Hyderabad police had registered the FIR against Omar Lulu based on a complaint that a song from their upcoming movie Oru Adaar Love hurts religious sentiments.

Priya Varrier, who is first petitioner, Omar Lulu and others in their petition to the apex court sought an ex-parte stay on the FIR registered against them ,and have also sought appropriate orders restraining other states from registering FIRs against them.

"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." - Priya Varrier & Omar in their petition to the Supreme Court

The petition, filed under Article 32 of the Constitution, has come in the wake of opposition towards Manikya Malaraya Poovi, a song from the Malayalam film Oru Adaar Love. This is the first film of actor Priya Varrier.

The petition says that all claims that the song hurts religious sentiments of the Muslim community "are without any basis". According to the petitioners, the song has been in use for the past 40 years and the song from the movie is a popular Mappila song from Kerala and that it describes and praises the love between the Prophet Mohamed and his first wife Khadeeja.

The petition has a detailed English translation of the now-controversial song, and argues that Manikya Malaraya Poovi has been celebrated all along, but is now being treated as an insult to the Prophet.

Stating that the complainants have "misunderstood" the lyrics of the song, the petitioners argue that the complaints have in fact "adversely affected their right to life, liberty and freedom of expression under Articles 19(1)(a), 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution."

They point out that as artists, they have the right to express themselves in a lawful manner. The petition points out that the movie is yet to be completed and an amount of Rs 1.5 Crore has been spent on the film.

"“That such flimsy and baseless complaints and FIRs cause nothing but hindrance in the freedom of speech and expression granted under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution and the same is an outright abuse of the process of law,”" - Reads the petition

Citing the case of actor Khushboo Sundar in which the apex court had quashed all cases against her following her comments on pre-marital sex, the petitioners state:

That this Hon’ble Court in S. Khushboo Vs. Kanniammal [(2010) 5 SCC 600] quashed several complaints where no prima facie case was made out. Since the criminal complaints are being filed in different states across the country no useful and fruitful purpose would be served in approaching the respective High Courts under Article 226 or in a petition under section 482 of the code of criminal procedure.

Manikya Malaraya Poovi video song was released on YouTube on February 9 and in the days that followed, the song went viral on social media. With the enormous popularity of the song, Priya Varrier too, rose to popularity, to the extent that she was termed the "national crush" by several media houses. The song went viral thanks to Priya Prakash Varrier’s wink. Playing a young schoolgirl in the film, the video clip of the song features Priya winking at her schoolmate. The song has become a hit, with Priya gaining a huge fan following not just in India but across several countries.

On February 14, an FIR was registered in Falaknama police station against the director based on a complaint that has hurt his religious sentiment and that of a particular community. Following the FIR registered by Falakanama police, a complaint was filed by the Secretary of Raza Academy in Mumbai. The complaint was given to the Commissioner of Police, seeking to take appropriate action against the film's director and the actor. The complaint also asked for the video song to be taken down and prevent it from being broadcast.

Yet another complaint was filed against them at Jinsi police station in Maharashtra by a group of people under the aegis of Janjagran Samithi. In this case, the complainants have alleged that the promotional video uploaded on YouTube has hurt their religious sentiment and that of the Muslim community.

The story first appeared on The News Minute and has been republished with permission.

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