'Does this logic apply to Harry Potter books too?': Twitter in splits after Bombay HC judge terms 'War and Peace' 'objectionable material'

FP Staff

A Bombay High Court observation is being ridiculed on social media, after a single-judge bench questioned rights' activist Vernon Gonsalves motive behind keeping (and reading) Leo Tolstoy's classic novel, War and Peace. Calling the critically acclaimed novel "objectionable material", which is about Russia during Napoleonic wars, the single-judge-bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal, hearing the bail plea of Gonsalves and others also said that "such books" and CDs prima facie indicated they contained "some material against the State".

The books and CDs the high court referred to included copies of Marxist Archives, a CD titled 'Rajya Daman Virodhi' released by Kabir Kala Manch, and 'Jai Bhima Comrade' among others.

"The title of the CD 'Rajya Daman Virodhi' itself suggests it has something against the State while War and Peace is about a war in another country. Why did you (Gonsalves) keep objectionable material such as books like War and Peace, books and CDs at home? You will have to explain this to the court," said Justice Kotwal. The Pune Police probing the case claimed that the book was part of the "highly incriminating evidence" it had seized from Gonsalves' house in Mumbai during raids conducted a year ago.

Meanwhile, people took to Twitter to comment on the bizarre question, some even suggesting if being well-read had now become a crime in India.

Lawyer Gautam Bhatia announced a mock distress sale of books to point out the irony of the situation.

One user pointed out how a book, which is part of varsity curriculums across world can be termed incriminating material.

Journalist Salil Tripathi took a pun-tended stand to comment on the bizarreness of the situation.

While some Twitter users relied on pure wit and humour to walk the fine line of commenting on a statement and criticising the judiciary.

However, during the hearing, judge did acknowledge the defence' charge that a book cannot be judged by its cover, and the police must come up with a stronger against Gonsalves. The judge also said the Pune police too have to do "much explaining" to convince the court that the material found on such CDs and in the books is incriminatory against Gonsalves.

"So far, the police have failed to provide details of what was on the CDs or in the books and pamphlets recovered that linked Gonsalves to the case. Merely stating that they have objectionable titles is not enough. Have you tested these CDs? What if they turn out to be blank inside?" the judge asked. "If you (prosecution) do not place on record the content and details of such material, the court will have to ignore them," said Justice Kotwal.

Also See: "Why did you have copy of 'War and Peace'?": Bombay HC judge asks Bhima Koregaon case accused to explain possession of Leo Tolstoy classic

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