SC stays criminal proceedings against Priya Prakash Varrier
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday, 21st February 2018, stayed all criminal proceedings, past and future, against Malayalam actor Priya Prakash Varrier.
Ms. Varrier’s celluloid wink during a promotional song in the yet-to-be-released film Oru Adaar Love catapulted her to fame but also spelt trouble for her.
A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra ordered that no State across the country shall, in the future, entertain any criminal action or complaints against Ms. Varrier, the film’s director and producer in connection with the promotional song.
“We are inclined to direct that any criminal action against the petitioners in the respondent States (Telangana and Maharashtra) or in any State solely on the basis of the promotional video of the song shall remain stayed... No criminal action either by FIR or private complaint on the basis of her participation as an actress in the song shall be entertained,” the Supreme Court ordered.
Advocate Haris Beeran pointed out that multiple criminal proceedings were initiated in non-Malayalam speaking States. “There is not a single complaint filed in Kerala,” Mr. Beeran submitted.
In her petition, Ms. Varrier argued that the cases were filed on the basis of a misunderstanding that the popular Muslim folk song in Kerala offended religious sentiments.
She said the translations of the Malayalam song, which went viral online, have distorted the meaning of the song’s lyrics. The lyrics were first written in 1978 and is cherished by the Muslim community in Kerala. The film had only used the same lyrics.
“The song ‘Manikya Malaraya Poovi’ is a Mappila Song, or a traditional Muslim song from the Malabar region of Kerala, which praises the love between the Prophet Mohamed and his first wife Khadeeja. It is a part of the Muslim tradition in Kerala and does not offend any religious sentiment of any community or person,” the petition said.
Ms. Varrier borrowed a line from the order of the Supreme Court favouring the release of the movie Padmaavat to press her case for creative freedom. “When creativity dies, values of civilization corrode,” the actor quoted a past Supreme Court order of a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra.
In a joint petition filed in the apex court with the film’s director, Ms. Varrier said the criminal proceedings instituted across several States shackled her fundamental rights to free speech and profession guaranteed under the Constitution.
“The registration of the criminal complaints and the registration of FIR by the States is nothing but a means to an end to stifle creativity,” Ms. Varrier, represented by Pallavi Pratap, argued.