Book ban: HC seeks reply

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  • Published 11.01.14

Cuttack, Jan. 10: Orissa High Court has asked the state government to give a reply within one week to a petition seeking quashing of the ban order imposed by it nearly five years ago on the book — The Lives of Sri Aurobindo.

Peter Heehs, the author of the biography who claimed to be a scholar and a founder of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives in Puducherry, had filed the petition.

The three-judge bench of Chief Justice A.K. Goel, Justice C.R. Dash and Justice A.K. Rath, before which the petition came up on Thursday, adjourned the matter for hearing, along with the reply of the state government.

Odisha government had enforced the ban in March 2009 after the CID-Crime Branch reports indicated that circulation of the book might outrage the religious feelings of the people.

The ban was imposed on the ground that it contained defamatory content on the revolutionary and spiritual leader. The petition was filed in January 2012.

The case records indicate that the Columbia University Press in USA had published the biography. It was slated to be released by the Penguin Books in India in November 2008.

But on November 4, 2008, the high court imposed restrictions on Penguin Books India Limited from publishing the biography without obtaining a “no-objection certificate” from the Union information and broadcasting ministry and the Union home ministry.

The high court imposed the restriction on a petition seeking imposition of a ban on the book alleging that in the guise of a biography, the author had cast aspersions on the image of Sri Aurobindo as a sage. Balasore-based Jayant Bhattacharya’s wife Gitanjali Devi had filed the petition.

While issuing the interim order, the high court asked the CID-Crime Branch to carry out an investigation. Subsequently, state home department informed the high court in March 2009 about the state government’s decision to enforce the ban on the basis of the report of CID-Crime Branch.

In the same month, the counsel for the central government had informed the Orissa High Court that the Union home ministry and the information & broadcasting ministry had no plans to give a no-objection certificate for publication of the book.