Richard Gere Kissing Controversy

Friday, April 27th 2007, 7:28 am

By: News On 6

NEW DELHI (AP) _ Richard Gere denounced a small right-wing minority in India whose complaints and protests led to a judge issuing an arrest warrant against the Hollywood star for violating the country's strict public obscenity laws.

Judge Dinesh Gupta issued the warrants Thursday in the northwestern city of Jaipur after a local citizen filed a complaint charging that a public kiss Gere gave to Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty at an AIDS awareness event offended local sensibilities.

``There is a very small right-wing, very conservative political party in India and they are the moral police in India and they do this kind of thing quite often,'' Gere told Comedy Central's ``The Daily Show With Jon Stewart'' on Thursday.

Gere said he was confident the issue would be sorted out.

``I don't know that any one has actually gone to jail, it has to go through a process. It goes to a reputable court and they throw it out,'' he said.

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

Gere, who left India shortly after the kissing incident, 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 northern Indian town of Dharmsala.

Legal experts agreed with Gere.

``The order is unsustainable and makes us look ridiculous,'' India's former attorney general Soli Sorabjee told the Times of India newspaper. ``Magistrates should not act like Taliban moral police.''

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 were splashed across front pages in India, where public displays of affection are largely taboo.

The judge lambasted Shetty for not resisting Gere's kisses and ordered her to appear in his court May 5, the Press Trust of India news agency said.

Shetty, who is currently on a religious pilgrimage in southern India, was upset by the news, said her spokesman, Dale Bhagwagar.

``Shilpa wishes that people would focus on the real issue, AIDS awareness, and not three pecks on her cheek,'' Bhagwagar told The Associated Press, adding that she had not yet received any court summons.

Shetty, already well known in India, became an international star after her appearance on the British reality show ``Celebrity Big Brother.'' A fellow contestant, Jade Goody, sparked international headlines by allegedly making 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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