The Bombay High Court has quashed a nine-year-old case against ceramic artist Vineet Kacker, who in an exhibition in 2008 had images of Hindu gods and goddesses painted on khadau (slippers).
In a major reprieve for artist Vineet Kacker, the Bombay high court on September 21 struck down a 9-year-old case against him and Jeetu Hinduja, who organised Kacker’s exhibition, for hurting religious sentiments of Hindus. In 2008, Kacker had exhibited ceramic slippers that had images of Hindu gods and goddesses painted on them at Museum Art Gallery at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya.
“The kharaus — slippers on which the images of Hindu deities were sketched — were not meant to be worn by anyone and so there is no question of outraging or hurting the religious feelings of any class of citizens,” said the division bench of Justice Ranjit More and Justice Sadhana Jadhav.
“It does not contain any deliberate malice and neither is it an attempt to insult the religion or the religious beliefs of people belonging to any class of society,” added the bench.
The FIR was registered in September 2008 after Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader from Colaba Arvind Gawde protested against Kacker’s exhibition. He was accused of hurting religious sentiments. The seven pieces of art seized from the exhibition are still with the police.
The bench also said the slippers were not displayed prominently and the complainant could see the images of Hindu deities only after observing them minutely. “These two things make it clear that it was not the petitioner or the organiser’s intention to outrage religious feelings of any class of citizens,” the bench said. The bench said at the most, it can be said that religious feelings of Gawde and his friend were hurt but, “that cannot come within the purview of Section 295-A of the IPC”.
MNS activists showing denigrated pictures of Hindu dieties drawn on Ceramic slippers in2008
Kacker had organised the show ‘(R)evolution, A Solo Exhibition of New Ceramic’ at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya wherein he displayed some ceramic sculptures expressing his creative ideas. In same exhibition, three ceramic and cast glass ‘khadaus’ (slippers) were kept on a table and four ceramic ‘khadaus’ were kept on the ground. On the same khadaus, images of some Hindu and Buddhist gods, goddesses and religious figures such as Natraj, Lord Gautam Buddha, Lord Shiva and Parvati and Tara were engraved.
The petition saID, “The inspiration for this work of art is that while different followers talk different philosophies, the underlying truth is one –and all human beings have a responsibility to walk on the path towards this truth. To demonstrate his vision and his viewpoint, the artist has referred to Lord Bharat keeping a khadau of Lord Rama for the purposes of worship and correct inspiration.”
The complainant, Arvind Gawde, visited this exhibition on September 19 in 2008 and saw the alleged ‘offending’ ceramic works.
The petition said, “The complainant did not understand the vision and viewpoint of the artist and without asking for any explanation or seeking opinion or clarification from the person concerned available at the exhibition or the artist about the alleged offending work of art, lodged a criminal complaint. The complaint filed under Section 295-A/ 34 of the IPC alleging that the artist has hurt the religious sentiments of a particular sect of the society by the alleged offending work of art.”