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Trashing claims of ‘hurt sentiments’ over song featuring teenage actor Priya Prakash Varrier with her wink, the Supreme Court on Wednesday (February 21) ordered a stay on all criminal proceedings against her and others in this connection, adding that said no FIR can be lodged in future in any state against Varrier for allegedly hurting religious sentiments of Muslims.

The order was passed by a bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud. Before quashing the criminal proceedings and the FIR against her, the Bench had asked Varrier’s counsels why they had not filed the petition in the concerned high court, to which they responded: “there are so many petitions filed against me (Varrier) in different high courts”.

Varrier had become an instant sensation on the social media ever since the release of the song’s promo which shows her winking at the camera. Even as the song and the actress gained popularity, several petitioners, mostly Islamic organisations, filed cases against Varrier and Omar Lulu, the director of Oru Adaar Love, in various high courts and trial courts – in Kerala and a few other states – alleging that the video of a song from the film featuring the actress had hurt the sentiments of the minority community. An FIR had also been registered against Varrier.

On February 14, some Muslim activists had lodged an FIR against the team of Oru Adaar Love in Hyderabad under Section 295A (hurting religious sentiments) of the Indian Penal Code. A case was also registered on the same grounds in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad against Varrier and Lulu.

The contentious scene where Varrier winks at a boy features the Mappila lyrics — a traditional Muslim song from the Malabar region of Kerala — that celebrate the love between Prophet Mohammed and his first wife Khadija. The complainants primarily objected to the use of Mappila as background music in the flirting scene.

On February 19, Varrier’s counsel submitted to the apex court that criminal complaints imposed by various fringe groups are centered on a vague and incorrect understanding of the song.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra agreed to hear the matter after advocate Haris Beeran, appearing for the petitioners Varrier and Omar Lulu, the film director, sought urgent hearing. The petition filed contended that the “song is originally from an old folk song from Kerala which was written in 1978 by Mr. PMA Jabbar and was first sung by Mr. Thalassery Rafeeq, in the praise of the Prophet and his wife Beevi Khadija” and that “the claims that it hurts the religious sentiments of the Muslim Community are without any basis”.

“It was hard to fathom that a song which has been in existence for the past 40 years… was cherished by the Muslim community in Kerala is now being treated as an insult… it cannot suddenly offend the religious sentiment of the Muslim community,” Varrier’s plea said.

“Filing of criminal complaints and registration of FIRs by the police in multiple states on the basis of complaints by fringe elements… has adversely affected the petitioners’ right to life, liberty and freedom of expression… the legality of the content of the film and the certification on the same can only be dealt with under law by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC),” it added.

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