Indian Filmmaker Acquitted of Rape Charges

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Mahmood Farooqui

Mahmood Farooqui was given a seven-year jail sentence last year on charges of raping an American woman at his Delhi home, but that sentence has now been overturned by a higher court.

Indian filmmaker Mahmood Farooqui has been acquitted of charges of raping an American woman at his Delhi home, for which he was last year handed a seven-year jail sentence by a lower court.

Following the sentence, Farooqui, who has been serving his jail term, had filed an appeal with the Delhi High Court, which acquitted him Monday, ordering his immediate release.

Farooqui co-directed the 2010 movie Peepli Live with his wife, Anusha Rizvi, which premiered at Sundance. The film was a satirical take on a poor farmer's struggle to pay his loans, highlighting India's painful issue of farmer suicides.

The rape charges first came to light in 2015, when a student from Columbia University, who was researching a project in India and was introduced to Farooqui by a mutual friend, filed a police complaint. She alleged that Farooqui was drunk when he raped her at his house after he'd invited her over to discuss her research project. Police took Farooqui into custody, but he was later released on bail as the case went to trial leading to his conviction last year.

According to a report by the Times of India on Monday, during the high court arguments, Farooqui’s lawyer denied the rape allegation, saying that “no such incident took place on that day,” and also referred to messages exchanged between the accused and the woman, suggesting that the two were in a “relationship.”

The high court said that Farooqui, 45, was “entitled to benefit of doubt as the testimony of the victim was not reliable." The court also added: “Whether such an incident happened, if it has happened, it did happen with the consent of the prosecutrix."

Farooqui’s wife Rizvi was quoted by the Delhi Times stating, “All the family members and friends of Mahmood Farooqui are relieved. We followed the law to the T. We had faith in the justice system of the country. We were shocked when the trial court had convicted him and that's why we took the matter to the High Court. Given the evidence he has now been acquitted.”

Peepli Live was produced by Bollywood star Aamir Khan and was put forward as India's Oscar entry in the foreign-language category in 2011.