Indian actress Shilpa Shetty has been formally cleared of obscenity charges dating from when Hollywood star Richard Gere publicly kissed her at an AIDS awareness event 15 years ago.
According to RFI, the incident triggered a local firestorm at the time, with radical Hindu groups burning effigies of both celebrities to protest the perceived insult to Indian values.
A judge reportedly issued arrest warrants soon afterwards, with both accused of various counts of obscenity and indecency.
The charges against Gere were quickly shelved, allowing the actor — one of the world’s best-known Buddhists — to return to India for a meeting with the Dalai Lama.
But the case against Shetty languished in India’s glacial legal system for more than a decade until it was finally discharged in Mumbai last week.
In a court order made public on Tuesday, a judge said the charges against the actress were “groundless” and that she had been subject to an unwanted amorous advance from the Hollywood A-lister.
“It seems that… Shilpa Shetty is the victim of alleged act of accused No. 1 (Richard Gere),” the order said.
Footage of the 2007 incident shows Gere spontaneously kissing Shetty on the hand, before tightly hugging her and planting repeated kisses on her cheek, while both were onstage.
Shetty’s lawyer said the entire case rested on the fact that “she did not protest when she was kissed by the co-accused”.