Court orders Gere arrest over kiss

AN INDIAN court ordered the arrest of Hollywood star Richard Gere yesterday for kissing the 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 of Gere kissing Shetty and found him guilty of violating Indian laws against public obscenity, the lawyer, Poonam Chand Bhandari, said.

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The court also summoned Shilpa Shetty to appear on 5 May, adding that Gere was also ordered to be arrested.

Gere could be fined or sent to jail for up to three months if arrested. He is not in India now but can be held if he visits the country again. The Hollywood star is a devout Buddhist, a vocal supporter of the Tibetan cause and frequent visitor to India. He also works for HIV/AIDS charities in the country.

Many commentators expressed their unhappiness at what they said were fringe groups making a mountain of a harmless peck on the cheek.