MF Husain can't be compelled to return, says apex court



MF Husain can`t be compelled to return, says apex court New Delhi: Self-exiled painter M F Husain, who has taken up Qatar citizenship, cannot be compelled to return to India by the courts or the Prime Minister, the Supreme Court observed on Friday refusing to direct dropping of criminal cases against him.

"What can the Prime Minister do if a person decides to live in Doha (capital of Qatar). They are international citizens they can live anywhere in the world," the apex court observed while refusing to entertain a public interest litigation filed by Bhim Singh, chief of the J&K Panthers Party and senior advocate.

Singh, in his petition, said he has written a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urging him to take steps to bring 95-year old Husain back to India and sought the apex court's direction to the PM for ensuring his return.

Husain, revered by many as India's Picasso, has given up his Indian passport and accepted Qatar citizenship in February this year. He has been living in self-exile for nearly four years following a spate of cases in India over his controversial paintings of Hindu goddesses in the nude.

A bench of Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan-- Justices J M Panchal and Deepak Verma also refused direction to the Union Government to withdraw the 95-odd criminal cases registered against him for alleged obscene paintings as they were all lodged by private individuals.

"How can the Union of India be directed to withdraw the cases when they are all private complaints, If he is in Doha, what is the problem ?" the apex court observed, asking Singh to withdraw the petition failing which it would be dismissed.

Sensing the court's mood, Singh withdrew the PIL.

The bench also pointed out that it had already transferred all the cases registered against Husain in different parts of the country for adjudication in Delhi.

Singh, a former MP, had claimed that Husain's fundamental rights stood violated as he was unable to return to India due to the cases slapped against him for his alleged blasphemous paintings.

The PIL referred to an earlier Supreme Court observation in connection with one of the cases against Husain that no exception should be taken to artistic expressions.

Singh later said he would file another writ petition before the apex court on the ground that Husain was forced to surrender his Indian passport and obtain Qatar citizenship out of "coercion" and fear of being victimised by a series of criminal cases.

PTI