Actor Kamal Haasan has filed a petition with the Madurai branch of the Madras High Court seeking an exemption from appearing before the Judicial Magistrate in Valliyoor. Haasan was summoned before the court after a right-wing group, the Hindu Munani Katchi (HMK), filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) against the actor for making derogatory remarks about the Hindu epic Mahabharata.
In his petition, Haasan pleads that in a secular and pluralist country like India, there was a long-established tradition of criticising the epics by many scholars, including the father of the Constitution Dr. BR Ambedkar.
The case was filed under Section 298 of the IPC (deliberately hurting religious sentiments). The HMK took issue with Haasan after he said that the Indian epic Mahabharatha was respected in the country even though men gamble away a woman in the story. Haasan had said, “In Mahabharata, Panchali was used a pawn while the men gambled. She was used as a collateral. And India is a country that respects and honours a book that revolves around men using a woman to gamble away as if she were a mere object.”
The TV interview was aired on 12 March, and the complaint was filed by Adhinatha Sundaram of the HMK on 15 March.
According to a Deccan Chronicle report, in the exemption petition, Kamal Haasan says that India is a secular and pluralistic society and has seen several critical works on the epics Ramayana and Mahabharata. The petition reads, “Dr Ambedkar, the father of the Indian Constitution, has written a book `Riddles in Hinduism. The great poet and translator AK Ramanjuam has written as essay ‘300 Ramayanas’. These are all scholarly responses. If they would give rise to criminal prosecution, there can be no genuine conservation of any of these aspects.”
Haasan has now requested the court to exempt him from personally appearing before it, and has asked the court to quash the case.