Blasphemy

Indian Supreme Court: Wink During Mohammed-Themed Song in Movie Not Blasphemous

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

Commenter Martinned noted, on the Unholy Toledo thread, that the Indian Supreme Court has stopped a possible blasphemy prosecution for a wink during a Mohammed-themed song in a movie:

The Supreme Court on Friday quashed the FIRs ["First Information Reports," which is to say the initial charges brought to the police] against Malayalam actress Priya Varrier, who shot into limelight after her 'wink' video went viral, lodged by Muslim groups who felt the song 'Manikya Malaraya Poovi' hurt their religious sentiments.

Priya and the film's Director had moved the SC challenging the criminal proceedings initiated at Telengana and Maharashtra against them. FIR against the Director also has been quashed. A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said the Malayalam folk song, on which the song has been picturised with Varrier, has been in the public domain since 1978 and the song video cannot be termed as blasphemous.

The bench said there was nothing to show that the wink had hurt anybody's religious sentiments too. The song describes and praises the love between Prophet Mohamed and his first wife Khadeeja….

The court opinion (short and pretty readable) is here; an excerpt:

[T]he picturization of the said song solely because of the 'wink' would not tantamount to an insult or attempt to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of a class of citizens…. We do not perceive that any calculated tendency is adopted by the petitioners to insult or to disturb public order to invite the wrath of Section 295A of the IPC.

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  1. Obvious entertainment value aside, I noticed the Supreme Court’s discussion of its earlier judgement in Ramji Lal Modi vs. State of U.P. (1957), which seems to have been a constitutional challenge against the blasphemy statute per se. In that case, reading between the lines, the Supreme Court opted to read the statute narrowly rather than strike it down as unconstitutionally ultra vires or overbroad. The choice of which way to go in situations like that seems like an interesting topic of study for comparative lawyers. IIRC, even in the US the Supreme Court has had different preferences at various points in the last two centuries.

  2. I’m waiting for a Bollywood song and dance routine about the love between Mohammed and his other wife, Aisha, who was 6 or 7 at the time of the marriage. Burn the house down on that one.

  3. Had to read title twice, as I couldn’t understand why the Indiana Supreme Court would be ruling whether something was or was not blasphemous.

    1. Anyone who says PI is not 3.00000…. is blaspheming!

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