Plea seeking ban on translated version of Gita dismissed

published on March 20, 2012

A Russian court today dismissed a petition seeking a ban on a translated version of Bhagwad Gita for being “extremist”, bringing cheers to followers across the world.

“The court in the Siberian city of Tomsk has dismissed the plea,” Sadhu Priya Das of Moscow ISKCON told PTI soon after the verdict was announced.

State prosecutors in the Siberian city of Tomsk had filed an appeal against a lower court’s dismissal of their original plea seeking a ban on “Bhagavad Gita As It Is”, written by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON).

They claimed that the text was “extremist” literature full of hatred and insult to non-believers which promoted social discord.

The higher court in Tomsk “kept the verdict of the lower court intact,” a joyful Das said.

As the judge dismissed the plea, the followers in the packed courtroom burst into applause, he said.

“We are grateful to the Russian judicial system,” Das said.

Brajendra Nandan Das, Director ISKCON media communication in India, expressed happiness over the verdict. “We have won. The petition seeking a ban on the book has been dismissed,” he told PTI.

The case had drawn a flurry of criticism from Hindus across the world.

When the petition was dismissed by the lower court in Tomsk on December 28 last year, India had welcomed the verdict as a “sensible resolution of a sensitive issue”.

The original petition seeking a ban on the translated version of the holy scripture was filed in June 2011 and the trial prompted sharp reactions from across the world.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had asked the Russian government to help resolve the issue quickly.

Bhagavad Gita was first published in Russia in 1788 and since then it has been republished many times in various translations.

Reacting to today’s verdict, Indian Ambassador to Russia, Ajai Malhotra, said he welcomed the decision of the court.

“I welcome the verdict of the Honourable District Court in Tomsk today, which has dismissed the appeal petition in the Bhagavad Gita case.

“It is good that the decision of the lower trial court in this matter has been reaffirmed. I trust that this issue is now conclusively behind us,” Malhotra said in a statement.

Last month, participants at conference on Bhagvad Gita had suggested creation of an independent board of scholars to evaluate various texts for signs of extremism.

“The conference has indicated the permanent historical acknowledgment of ‘Bhagavd Gita’, which carries on the commentatorial tradition of the religious authority, and has shown its spiritual influence on the cultural development not only in India, but also in other countries,” a resolution adopted at the conference said.

The participants also firmly believed that the notion of extremism cannot be applied to such a religious text as “Bhagavad Gita as it is”.

The scholars had also expressed “deep satisfaction in regards to Tomsk court’s decision to reject the prosecutors’ plea for recognising the ‘Bhagavad Gita As It Is’ as extremist literature.”

They had also expressed their concern with the “low level” of the general culture of officers of the law enforcement agencies and the state authorities.

“We would like to draw the government’s and society’s attention to the urgent problem of the enforcement practice of the Federal Statute ‘On counteraction against extremism activity’, which permits nowadays such abuse towards religious organisations”, the resolution, which was also submitted to the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Indian embassy in Moscow, had said.

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