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Priya Prakash Varrier, who attained instant stardom with a video that went viral, approached the Supreme Court on Monday, Feb 19, seeking a stay on criminal proceedings against her and the team of upcoming Malayalam movie Oru Adaar Love, said media reports.

In her plea, Priya has requested the court to list the matter for urgent hearing. The petition is expected to be taken up tomorrow (Tuesday, Feb 20) by the bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, said a report in The India Express (IE).

FIRs have been registered against Varrier and the makers of the Malayalam film in Telangana and Maharashtra for allegedly hurting the sentiments of a community. The first complaint was registered in Hyderabad by a student against the film’s director, Omar Lulu, alleging that a song from the film showed Prophet Mohammad in poor light. It is being alleged that the lyrics of the song, Manikya Malaraya Poovi, carry derogatory references to the Prophet and his wife.

Last week, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan defended the song and stated that the complaint against it is “not accidental”, and shows the growing intolerance towards freedom of art and free thought. Intolerance will not be allowed, be it from any quarter, he posted on Facebook.

The petition, filed under Article 32 of the Constitution, says that all the 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, reported The News Minute.

The petition reportedly 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.

The petition states: “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.”

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. “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.”

Varrier became a star overnight when a clip from her upcoming debut film, in which she raises eyebrows, winks and smiles mischievously, went viral over the internet.

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