An Indian court has issued an arrest warrant for Richard Gere over a public kiss he gave to Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty earlier this month.
Gere, 57, took Shetty, 31, in his arms, smooched her several times on the cheek and dipped her in a tango-style dance move during a public HIV-awareness event in New Delhi.
Indians in several cities later protested and burned effigies of Gere, saying the kiss was an “indecent” act and “against Indian culture.”
On Thursday, Judge Dinesh Gupta issued an arrest warrant in the northwestern city of Jaipur, acting on a petition by a local lawyer, and said the kiss “transgressed all limits of vulgarity,” according to reports in India.
Gupta earlier viewed footage of the event, which he called “highly sexually erotic.” He said the act violated India’s public obscenity laws, the Associated Press reports.
Under Indian law, anyone convicted of public obscenity faces up to three months in prison, a fine or both.
It’s not clear yet how the warrant will affect Gere, who visits India frequently for his work on AIDS and to meet the Dalai Lama in the town of Dharamsala in northern India.
The judge has not issued a warrant against Shetty but has ordered her to appear in court on May 5. After the furor, Shetty dismissed the incident as trivial, saying it was a shame that the protesters had not focused on the issue of AIDS instead.
Such legal cases against celebrities are becoming increasingly common in India as a way of getting publicity. Legal experts say it is likely that Gere’s lawyer will appeal to a higher court to quash the arrest warrant. They also expressed surprise at the court order.
“Judges normally issue arrest warrants only when a person has repeatedly ignored a court summons and refused to appear in court. They don’t do it the first time they hear a petition as this judge has,” said New Delhi lawyer Neeraj Kapoor.