MUMBAI, May 8: India’s Supreme Court has stayed a lower court order to seize the property of the country’s celebrated artist M.F. Hussain, issued in an obscenity case, his lawyers said on Tuesday.

The 92-year-old painter has been living in voluntary exile in London and Dubai for the past two years to escape prosecution over his paintings of naked Hindu gods and goddesses and other figures.

“The Supreme Court has issued an order staying the seizure of my client’s properties and his possible arrest,” said Hussain’s lawyer Akhil Sibal in Mumbai, India’s entertainment and financial capital.

The decision came after Hussain told a newspaper this week, “the truth is that I’m missing my country”.

A court in northern India had ordered police in March to start seizing the painter’s property after he failed to respond to a summons to appear before it.

The court was acting on a complaint against Hussain lodged by a lawyer, Arvind Shrivastava, a member of the hardline group Hindu Jagran Manch, or Hindu Awakening Forum.

Shrivastava has accused the painter of allegedly depicting Hindu goddesses in an obscene manner, hurting “Hindu sentiments”.

Police on Monday announced they had started seizing Hussain’s property in a posh district of Mumbai.

The painter, whose works fetch tens of thousands of dollars, faces a huge number of court cases over his paintings lodged by ardent Hindus who object to the subject matter.

Hussain, who has expressed his desire to visit India soon, has told Indian newspapers that he has become an “international gypsy” because of the court cases and is “extremely homesick”.

He has said that he believed there were at least 900 cases registered against him in India and that “matters are so legally complicated that I have been advised not to return home.”

The law ministry has examined half a dozen works by Hussain and told the government that prosecutors would have a strong case against him if they sued him for deliberately hurting religious feelings.

One Hindu group offered an 11.5-million-dollar reward last year for Hussain’s murder over a work depicting a nude “Bharat Mata” or “Mother India”.—AFP

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