SC quashes FIR against actor Priya Varrier, director and producer of ‘wink video’ movie

The Malayalam folk song, on which song had been picturised with Ms. Varrier, was in public domain since 1978 and the video cannot be termed blasphemous, says Bench.

The Supreme Court on Friday quashed an first information report (FIR) filed against actor Priya Prakash Varrier, the director and the producer of Malayalam movie Oru Adaar Love, which alleged that the ‘wink song’ video had hurt the religious sentiments of the Muslim community.

A Bench of Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra and Justices A.M.Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud said the Malayalam folk song, on which the song had been picturised with Ms. Varrier, had been in the public domain since 1978 and the song video cannot be termed blasphemous.

“We allow the writ petition of Varrier and others and quash the FIR lodged against them in Telangana and further direct no FIR or any complaint under Section 200 of CrPC will be entertained against the petitioners for picturisation of the song in question,” the Bench said.

Referring to a Constitution Bench judgement and a verdict delivered in a similar case lodged against cricketer M.S. Dhoni, it said no offence under Section 295 A of the IPC is made out against the 18-year-old actor and others in the present case.

Section 295 A of the IPC deals with deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings or any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.

On February 21, the apex court stayed criminal proceedings against Ms. Varrier in some States, filed on the grounds that a song from her film allegedly hurt the sentiments of the Muslim community.

Ms. Varrier, who shot to fame after her ‘wink video’ went viral on Internet, is a B.Com student from a college in Kerala’s Thrissur district. She had sought protection from an FIR lodged on complaints alleging that the lyrics of the song Manikya Malaraya Poovi  from the movie was “offensive” and “violated the religious sentiment of a particular community“.

Cases filed in Hyderabad, Mumbai

The actor had moved the apex court seeking the quashing of the FIR lodged against her in Telangana and sought the court’s direction to prohibit States from initiating any criminal proceedings against her.

She had said that the FIR was lodged against her on February 14 at the Falaknama police station in Hyderabad on a complaint that alleged the song hurt the religious sentiments of a community.

On the same day, a criminal complaint was also filed by the Secretary of Raza Academy, Mumbai, with the Commissioner of Police, seeking action against the petitioners, taking down the video and preventing it from being broadcast, she said.

‘Song cherished by 1 crore Kerala Muslims’

She had said the entire controversy resulted in the filing of several criminal complaints, while the FIR arose from the lyrics of the song, which is a Mappila song or a traditional number from the Malabar region of Kerala.

Her plea said the claims that it hurt the religious sentiments of Muslims were “without any basis and what is hard to fathom is that a song which has been in existence for the past 40 years, which was written, sung and cherished by the Muslim community in Kerala is now being treated as an insult to the Prophet and his wife.”

“It is submitted that a song, which …. has been cherished by more than one crore Muslim population of Kerala, cannot suddenly offend the religious sentiments of the Muslim community,” it said.

The plea stated that criminal complaints and registration of FIRs in multiple States were filed on the basis of complaints by “fringe elements who have misunderstood the lyrics of the song which they claim allegedly offended their religious sentiments and that of their community has adversely affected the petitioners right to life, liberty and freedom of expression under the Constitution.”

The plea said the movie was then yet to be completed and about ₹ 1.5 crore have been spent on it, but such “flimsy and baseless” complaints and FIRs caused “nothing but hindrance to freedom of speech and expression granted under Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution” and “an outright abuse” of the legal process.