The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed a Haridwar court order to the Mumbai Police to attach the property of noted painter MF Hussain for his repeated failure to appear before it in connection with a criminal case.
The criminal complaint lodged by one Arvind Kumar Shrivastava accused him of hurting religious sentiments of people with his controversial paintings, including that of ‘Bharat Mata’.
A Bench headed by Justice BN Agrawal stayed the attachment proceedings initiated by the court of Haridwar Special Judicial Magistrate against the 91-year-old painter after senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi mentioned the matter for urgent hearing.
In fact, the Mumbai police began the attachment proceedings on Sunday but later it turned out that the house belonged to his son and not him.
The Bench also issued notice to Shrivastava on Hussain’s petition seeking transfer of his case from Uttarakhand to Delhi, where four other criminal cases lodged against him in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Gujarat had already been transferred by the apex court. He has sought transfer of his case to Patiala House Courts here in view of "hostile environment" prevailing in Uttarakhand.
The court had, however, ordered the painter to bear the expenses incurred by the complainants and witnesses in travelling to the Capital to attend the proceedings.
The other four criminal complaints pending against him are in various courts at Bhopal, Indore, Rajkot and Pandharpur. These are in addition to two other such cases pending against him at Patiala House Courts.
The complainants accused Hussain of outraging religious sentiments, promoting enmity between different religious groups, selling obscene material and disturbing national integrity, thereby committing offences under several sections of the Indian Penal Code.
He has also been accused of commiting offences under Section 2 of the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act on account of certain paintings of Hindu deities and mythological characters painted in the 1970s and 1980s, as well as the more recent painting of Bharat Mata allegedly depicting her in the nude.
His painting of Bharat Mata had led to protests in various parts of the country by different political and religious groups including the Hindu Jan Jagruti Samiti, Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bajrang Dal, which accused him of hurting Hindu religious sentiments. Hussain had already tendered an apology.
In July 2000, the apex court had ordered the transfer of similar cases filed against him in Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Bihar to the court of an additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate in New Delhi and later the Delhi High Court quashed the complaints.