People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 18

May 18, 2008



SAHMAT Welcomes Ruling On Husain

The SAHMAT has issued the following statement on May 9, 2008

THE artists community welcomes the Delhi High Court ruling dismissing three criminal cases against the painter M F Husain for the supposed crime of obscenity. The court has, in our perception, upheld the right to artistic creation and decisively quashed efforts at censorship through street violence and orchestrated legal action by politically motivated groups. The court has, importantly, held that there was no intent on the part of the artist to cause offence. Obscenity in this reading is in the eyes of the viewer. And a difference in perspective cannot be the basis of criminal charges.

We note that despite an earlier ruling from the higher judiciary holding the criminal charges against India’s greatest living painter thoroughly unfounded, the campaign of victimisation against him for artistic productions dating back a quarter century or more, has shown no signs of abating. This has compelled the 92-year old artist to seek refuge in a distant country, rather than risk the possibility of arrest on the orders of some over-zealous police official.

We note that police in Mumbai went so far on a recent occasion, to order the sealing of residential premises owned by Husain, for failure to respond to judicial summons in one such case. The possibility that an old and distinguished artist could be subject to the ignominy of summary arrest and prolonged detention, was very real.

Despite the ruling of the Delhi High Court, we observe with concern, that because of procedural complications, four cases are still pending against the artist in the Sessions Court at Patiala House in Delhi, on virtually identical charges. We call upon the judicial authorities concerned to recognise the value of the precedent set in the Delhi High Court ruling and to deal with all pending complaints against Husain accordingly. We call upon the union home ministry to heed the principles laid down in the Delhi High Court ruling – that differences in perspective cannot be the basis of criminal complaints – and to intervene accordingly in the pending cases.

Having been active in the defence of Husain for many years, through public meetings, petitions, symposia and appeals to constitutional authorities like the president and the home minister, we feel our stand that Husain’s art is a part of a longstanding evolving tradition of Indian iconography has been vindicated.