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Tuesday, November 24, 2020

FIR against Milind Soman; Poonam Pandey gets bail: ‘Freedom to express’

Soman, who turned 55 on Wednesday, had posted a photograph of him running nude by a beach in Goa, captioned “55 and running!” The photograph was clicked by his wife.

Written by Smita Nair | Panaji | Updated: November 7, 2020 9:53:22 am
Actor and model Milind Soman and Poonam Pandey.

Actor and model Milind Soman was booked by Goa Police on Friday for obscenity and publishing and transmitting obscene material in electronic form.

Soman, who turned 55 on Wednesday, had posted a photograph of him running nude by a beach in Goa, captioned “55 and running!” The photograph was clicked by his wife.

“A case has been registered at Colva police station under IPC Section 294 (obscene acts and songs) and Section 67 of IT Act (publishing and transmitting obscene material in electronic form) against actor Milind Soman,” South Goa SP Pankaj Singh said.

Singh said the case was booked on the complaint of a political outfit named Goa Suraksha Manch.

This comes a day after model-actor Poonam Pandey and her husband were booked for obscenity, after they shot a controversial photoshoot at a restricted dam site, with the government’s Water Works Department filing a complaint in that case. They subsequently got bail from a court in south Goa the same day.

In the bail order, the judicial magistrate first class, Canacona, stated, “A professional shoot towards the making of a video or a film, in my considered opinion cannot be outright termed as obscene or immoral merely because some members of the public say so, or there is public outcry about the same. Films and videos are covered under the right to expression, which is a fundamental right granted by our Constitution.”

This, meanwhile, is the second time Soman faces charges of obscenity. In 1995, the Social Service Branch of Mumbai Police had booked him and model Madhu Sapre after they posed nude, wearing only a pair of shoes and a python wrapped around them, for an advertisement campaign. They were acquitted after a 14-year-long legal trial.

Earlier this year, Soman posted the old image on social media and had wrote, “what the reaction would have been if it had been released today…”

“He has used Goa for is cheap publicity and acted foolishly on a public beach,” Sameer Khutwalker, president of Goa Suraksha Manch and complainant in the case, said.

Khutwalker said he found it offensive since “his (Soman’s) wife had clicked the photograph without any official permission. In official permissions, the law doesn’t permit such acts. How does one just run naked on a beach?”

Khutwalker said they didn’t complaint initially because they “didn’t know where he (Soman) was running naked”. “Then, on Instagram one follower commented that he saw the couple in south Goa, so we approached south Goa police,” he said. “Please understand, Goa’s image gets tainted (by such action). When these things become public, people will imagine that ‘anything is possible in Goa’…. When will all this stop?”

He said, “I am happy he was booked. The State must fight it. We just pushed for it so that the issue comes up.”

Commenting on Poonam Pandey’s detention earlier for the allegedly obscene photoshoot, Stating that he was observing the reactions to both cases, Khutwalker said: “One of the reasons I spontaneously went to the police station yesterday was also because I found no objection was coming against (Soman) from anybody. When a lady did it, she (Pandey) got arrested. But if a man did it, he was not. That was not right.”

In his order granting bail to Pandey and her husband, Sam Bombay, the JFMC court noted, “When it comes to fundamental rights of an individual, which are sacrosanct, especially the right to free speech and expression, which constitutes an essential foundation of a democracy and without which life itself would be meaningless, acting in a video or film, which may be be perceived by some as obscene and yet some others may perceive it as artistic, cannot be a ground to jail a person, especially where the acts complained of have been documented in a film.”

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