Bollywood star Akshay Kumar and his actor-turned-author wife Twinkle Khanna have been served a legal notice for auctioning the naval uniform he wore in Rustom because they "have played with the sentiments of armed forces personnel and widows" of fallen soldiers.
The notice has also been sent to auction house SaltScout, which has put out the naval officer uniform for online bidding. As of Wednesday afternoon, the highest bid offered for the uniform -- which includes a shirt, pants and a hat -- was ₹235,000. The auction closes on May 26 night.
The Bollywood couple has claimed that the money raised from the auction would be used for social causes and 90 per cent of the net proceeds from it would support NGO Janice's Trust, an animal rescue service, treatment centre and shelter based in Panchgani in Maharashtra.
But the auctioning of the uniform has rubbed some serving and ex soldiers the wrong way, claiming that "by putting (it) in auction, you have shown no respect for national interest (and) have also played with the sentiments of armed forces personnel and their widows and their family members".
"As a matter of fact, till date no uniform or medal has been put for auction. The reason for the same being that an officer's uniform is bestowed as a singular honour on a commissioned officer by President of India for life. It is not a contract but entails a liability for the nation's sake and thus the array of medals and ranks, insignia are for the discerning eye of the one who proudly wears it."
The legal notice has asked Akshay and Twinkle to cancel the auction "failing which necessary action shall be taken against you under the relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code".
While there is no law that bars auction but the notice points out that after the January 2016 terror attack at the Air Force Station in Pathankot, the Indian Army issued guidelines asking civilians to avoid wearing army pattern dresses and shopkeepers not to sell combat clothes, uniforms and equipment as "it is illegal" and goes against the national interest.
The notice said Akshay and Twinkle have "shown no respect for national interest" by putting the Rustom uniform up for auction.
The Bollywood couple have defended the auction, saying they "are doing some work with good intention for a good cause".
"If anyone finds it wrong then it is okay. I cannot do anything on that," Akshay said, replying to a question at an event in Mumbai last week in the presence of Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
The uniform Akshay wore in Rustom -- a 2016 period thriller set in the 1950s about Parsi Indian naval officer Rustom Pavri, who is struggling with his marriage after he discovers his wife (played by Ileana D'Cruz) has an affair with his friend, a businessman who was trying to negotiate a deal to sell a damaged aircraft carrier to the Indian Navy.
The film was based on the real life incident of Naval Officer K M Nanavati and businessman Prem Ahuja.