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Page last updated at 13:22 GMT, Tuesday, 9 September 2008 14:22 UK

Indian painter cleared by court

MF Husain
This is not the first time Mr Husain's work has caused controversy

India's Supreme Court has refused to launch criminal proceedings against one of the country's best-known and controversial artists.

MF Husain had been accused of obscenity and was denounced by hardline Hindus for a painting of a nude goddess in the shape of the Indian map.

The court said Mr Husain's paintings were not obscene and nudity was common in Indian iconography and history.

Mr Husain says he is looking forward to returning home from self-imposed exile.

The Supreme Court also upheld a lower court ruling in May that dropped legal proceedings in three cases against the painter and cleared him of obscenity charges.

Under Indian laws, obscenity is a criminal offence.

In its ruling, the court said that the nudity portrayed by Mr Husain had a long history.

"There are many such pictures, paintings and sculptures and some of them are in temples also," it said.

'Victory'

Mr Husain, a Muslim, has spent the past two years in the Middle East. He welcomed the court's decision and said he was looking forward to returning to India.

"At last they have understood the dignity of Indian contemporary art," he was quoted as saying by the Times of India newspaper.

"This is not a victory for me only, but one for the Indian contemporary art movement."

Last year, art auction house Christie's rejected demands by a group of expatriate Indians to withdraw the work of Mr Husain.

The group had threatened to hold demonstrations unless the auction was dropped.

Over the years, his exhibitions have often been attacked by hardline Hindu groups, angry over a series of paintings depicting Hindu goddesses in the nude.

In 2006, Mr Husain publicly apologised for his painting, Mother India. It shows a nude woman kneeling on the ground creating the shape of the Indian map.

He promised to withdraw the controversial painting from a charity auction, after Hindu nationalist groups accused him of hurting their religious sentiments.

Mr Husain, 92, is one of India's leading painters.

His paintings are much sought after and are auctioned for millions of dollars.

He has also made two Bollywood films, although both failed at the box office.


SEE ALSO
Indian police move against artist
07 May 07 |  South Asia
Indian painter sorry for nude art
08 Feb 06 |  South Asia
Indian painter agrees $21m deal
10 Sep 04 |  South Asia
Smashing India's sexual taboos
29 Oct 02 |  Entertainment
Storm over nude art in India
04 Sep 00 |  South Asia
Bidding for Bollywood art
20 Feb 02 |  South Asia

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