Thursday, April 26, 2007

India may Arrest Richard Gere over Kiss with Shilpa Shetty

A court issued arrest warrants for Hollywood actor Richard Gere and Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty on Thursday for kissing at a public function, news reports said.

Judge Dinesh Gupta issued the warrants in the northwestern city of Jaipur after a citizen there filed a complaint charging that the public display of affection — which he called an "an obscene act" — offended local sensibilities, the Press Trust of India news agency reported.

Last week, Gupta subpoenaed television footage of the event.

Such cases against celebrities — often filed by publicity seekers — are common in conservative India. They add to a backlog of legal cases that has nearly crippled the country's judicial system.

Gere left India shortly after the kissing incident and it was not immediately clear how the warrant would affect him.

Gere is a frequent visitor to India, promoting health issues and the cause of Tibetan exiles. The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has his headquarters in the north Indian town of Dharmsala.

Under Indian law a person convicted of public obscenity faces up to three months in prison, a fine, or both.

Last week, crowds in several Indian cities burned effigies of the 57-year-old star of "An Officer and a Gentleman," "American Gigolo" and "Pretty Woman" after he embraced Shetty and kissed her several times on her cheeks during an HIV/AIDS awareness event in the Indian capital.

Photographs of the clinch were then splashed across front pages in India — where public displays of affection are largely taboo.

The event's organizer, Parmeshwar Godrej, called the controversy a distraction from more important issues.

"It has detracted from and undermined the value and success of the event, which was concerned with creating AIDS awareness and promoting AIDS prevention among truck drivers," CNN-IBN quoted her as saying.

Shetty, 31, has said the embrace was not obscene and that the media should instead focus on HIV/AIDS awareness.

"I understand this is his culture, not ours. But this was not such a big thing or so obscene for people to overreact in such manner," she told PTI last week.

"I understand people's sentiments, but I don't want a foreigner to take bad memories from here," PTI quoted her as saying.

Shetty, already well-known in India, became an international star after her appearance on the British reality show "Celebrity Big Brother" — another controversial public appearance. A fellow contestant, Jade Goody, sparked international headlines by making allegedly racist comments to Shetty. Mobs took to the streets of India to denounce Goody, and Shetty went on to win the competition.

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