Bhima Koregaon Case: Bombay HC Did Not Mention Tolstoy's 'War & Peace'

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It has emerged on Thursday that Justice Sarang Kotwal of the Bombay HC wasn't referring to Leo Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' while hearing the Bhima Koregaon case

Written By Digital Desk | Mumbai | Updated On:
Bhima Koregaon case

Following significant controversy-mongering over the matter, it has emerged on Thursday that Justice Sarang Kotwal of the Bombay High Court was not referring to "War And Peace" by Leo Tolstoy while hearing the Bhima-Koregaon case. Instead, the judge was actually referring to the book 'War and Peace in Junglemahal' by Biswajit Roy when he had asked Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case accused Vernon Gonsalves to explain why he kept "objectionable material" such as the book in question and some CDs at his home.

Media wrongly reported the incident, says the Advocate of a case accused

Yug Chaudhary, an advocate representing another accused in the Bhima Koregaon case, on Thursday told the High Court that the media had wrongly reported that the court raised questions on the accused keeping a copy of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace. "The book found in the punchnama of accused Vernon Gonsalves is War and Peace in Junglemahal: People, State and Maoists by Biswajit Roy. Not War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy," Yug Chaudhary said.

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I am shocked: Justice Sarang Kotwal

On this, Justice Sarang Kotwal, agreeing to the submission said that the reporting was disturbing for the institution and shocking for him. He said, “From what is reported, I am shocked?” Justice Kotwal added that he knows Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace is a literary classic and that he didn't mean to suggest that all the books seized by Pune police in the Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case were incriminating.

The court's latest comments came after the counsel for Gonsalves informed it that none of the books seized from the activist's residence last year were banned by the government in accordance with CrPC provisions. Justice Kotwal said, "You have made your point about the books not being banned. Besides, yesterday, I was reading the whole list from the charge sheet. It was written in such poor handwriting. I know War and Peace [by Leo Tolstoy]. I was making a query on the entire list that police has mentioned [as evidence]."

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A day before, the single-judge bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal, hearing the bail plea of Vernon Gonsalves and others, said "such books" and CDs prima facie indicated they contained some material against the State. The classic novel about Russia during Napoleonic wars became a point of contention during the day’s hearing after 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.

Pune Police also read out the titles of several other books and CDs allegedly recovered from Gonsalves’ house which included CDs titled ‘Rajya Daman Virodhi’ released by Kabir Kala Manch, ‘Marxist Archives’ and ‘Jai Bhima Comrade’; books ‘War and Peace’, ‘Understanding Maoists’ and ‘RCP Review’, and copies of a circular issued by the National Study Circle.

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“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.

About the Bhima Koregaon case

Gonsalves was arrested by the Pune police under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act after raids at residences and offices of several activists in connection with the Elgar Parishad case. The police had claimed provocative speeches made at the Parishad on December 31, 2017, were responsible for the caste violence around Bhima-Koregaon village in Pune district the next day during an event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Bhima Koregaon. One person was killed and others were injured in the violence.

Police are probing alleged Naxal links in organising the Parishad, which was held at historic Shaniwarwada in Pune. Other arrested accused in the case include activists and academics Shoma Sen, Rona Wilson, Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, and Gautam Navlakha.

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(With PTI inputs)
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