Shilpa Shetty, Bollywood actress and former winner of the reality show Big Brother, has been cleared of obscenity charges by the Mumbai Court in a case involving Hollywood actor Richard Gere. The case dates back to 2007 when Gere had planted a kiss on Shilpa Shetty’s cheek during an AIDS Awareness event, aimed at spreading awareness about HIV infection. However, the gesture backfired as a complaint was filed against Shilpa Shetty and Richard Gere, alleging obscenity.
The complainant had argued that Shilpa Shetty, being aware of the public nature of the event and the media coverage it would receive, did not resist Gere’s kiss and thus was complicit in an obscene act. However, Shilpa Shetty had moved the Supreme Court to transfer the case from Alwar to Mumbai, where the Metropolitan Court 16 had discharged her in 2021.
The State of Maharashtra had filed an appeal against the order of discharge, but the Mumbai Court upheld the previous judgment, stating that Shilpa Shetty was a victim of Richard Gere’s act of kissing and cannot be held culpable for an illegal omission. The Court also noted that obscenity has to be understood in the context of the alleged act and varies from situation to situation and person to person.
The judgment in Shilpa Shetty’s favor was based on the Supreme Court’s previous order in the Aveek Sarkar case, where a semi-nude photo of tennis player Boris Becker and his then-girlfriend was deemed not obscene. The Court reasoned that Shilpa Shetty’s lack of resistance to Gere’s kiss does not make her complicit in any illegal activity and that a woman cannot be held liable for prosecution for being a victim of groping or unwanted touching in public places.
The Mumbai Court’s decision has brought relief to Shilpa Shetty, who had been facing allegations of obscenity for over a decade. The case highlights the need for a nuanced understanding of obscenity laws and the importance of considering the context and circumstances of each case. Shilpa Shetty, known for her roles in Bollywood films and her appearances in reality shows, can now put the case behind her and continue her career without the cloud of obscenity charges hanging over her.