JAIPUR, India (Reuters) - An Indian court ordered the arrest of Hollywood star Richard Gere Thursday for kissing Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty at an AIDS campaign event this month saying it was an obscene act committed in public.
Gere’s repeated kisses on Shetty’s cheeks at an event to promote AIDS awareness in New Delhi sparked protests in some parts of India, mostly by Hindu vigilante groups, who saw it as an outrage against her modesty and an affront to Indian culture.
The order by a court in the northern city of Jaipur came in response to a complaint by a local lawyer.
The judge watched a video recording of Gere kissing Shetty and found him guilty of violating Indian laws against public obscenity, the lawyer, Poonam Chand Bhandari, said.
The court also summoned Shilpa Shetty to appear on May 5, Bhandari said, adding that Gere was also ordered to be arrested.
Gere can be sent to jail for up to three months or fined or both for the crime if he is arrested. He is not in India now but can be held if he visits the country again.
The Hollywood star is a devout Buddhist and a vocal supporter of the Tibetan cause and visits India frequently to meet the Dalai Lama, who lives in exile in northern India.
He is also involved with charities looking after HIV-infected people and orphans, as well as AIDS prevention groups in the country.
Groups of men had burned and kicked straw effigies of Gere and Shetty in sporadic protests across the country after newspapers published the picture of the kiss on their front pages and TV channels aired visuals of the event.
Shetty, the winner of the “Celebrity Big Brother” reality TV show in Britain this year had said the kiss may have gone a “little overboard” but it was not obscene and the protests made India look regressive.
She said Gere was only re-enacting his moves from the film “Shall We Dance” to entertain the audience at the AIDS event and communicate in a Bollywood style as he did not speak Hindi.
Many commentators had subsequently expressed their unhappiness at what they said were fringe groups making a mountain of a harmless peck on the cheek.