Court clears way, author gets award - Kalpana Kumari Devi gets top literarary honour for Achinha Basabhumi

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By LALMOHAN PATNAIK
  • Published 15.02.12
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Cuttack, Feb. 14: Her hard work has finally paid off. Tiding over controversies, Odia author Kalpana Kumari Devi received the Sahitya Akademi Award, 2011, in Delhi today. The final hurdle in Kalpana’s path was crossed with Orissa High Court today rejecting a PIL challenging her nomination for the coveted honour.

Speaking to The Telegraph over telephone from Delhi, Kalpana said: “The controversy in Odisha has hurt me deeply. I have worked very hard. I deserved to receive the award earlier. However, I am glad to have received it today.”

Kalpana received the award for her contribution Odia literature in New Delhi today during the Festival of Letters organised by the Sahitya Akademi.

On December 21 last year, the Akademi had announced awards for eight books of poetry, seven novels, three essays and a book each of short stories, narrative history, biography and a play. The nominated compositions were written in more than 20 languages.

The 1936-born author, who wrote her first book, Kabi, in 1954 and has been living in Calcutta since 1958. She was awarded under the genre of Odia novels for Achinha Basabhumi, her autobiography, published in 2009.

Her nomination had evoked protests from many writers of the state, sparking off a controversy. Barendra Krushna Dhal, a member of the Odia advisory board of the Sahitya Akademi, even tendered his resignation in protest on December 24 last year.

The controversy had reached Orissa High Court with Sricharan Pratap Kanishka, an Odia writer and proprietor of Pine Books, filing a PIL on January 31. The PIL sought quashing of her nomination, citing violation of the Annual Sahitya Akademi Awards Rules.

After a preliminary hearing on February 2, the high court stated: “The award shall not be presented to Kalpana Kumari Devi, pending a final decision on the PIL.”

However, the high court today rejected the PIL after hearing the arguments on behalf of the author and the Sahitya Akademi.

“Dismissing the petition, the division bench of Chief Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice B.N. Mohapatra observed that the PIL was not maintainable,” Kalpana Kumari Devi’s counsel Biplab Mohanty told The Telegraph today.

The dispute raised by the PIL had centred around the allegation that the nomination of Achinha Basabhumi had violated Rule 1 (1) of the Annual Sahitya Akademi Awards Rules, which said: “The selected book for receiving the Award must be a first publication in any language during the three years prior to the year, immediately, preceding the year of the Award”.

“In the present case, since the award is of the year 2011, the books actually published during the year from 2007 to 2009 should have been taken into consideration. The book Achinha Basabhumi, however, was actually published towards the last part of 2010, but the year of publication was manipulated by the publisher and the same was placed before the Language Advisory Committee for selection of the award-winning book,” the petitioner had alleged.

However, the high court endorsed the arguments placed on behalf of the author and the Akademi that the allegation was baseless as her book Achinha Basabhumi was published in 2009.

The court endorsed arguments that the jury had the prerogative to select a work for an award.

The jury for the Odia author award included noted writers such as Devdas Chhotray, Srinibas Mishra and Chandrasekhar Rath.