Shivaji Book Ban: Maharashtra Law to Circumvent SC

Shivaji Book Ban: Maharashtra Law to Circumvent SC
Despite the Supreme Court lifting the ban on American author James Laine's controversial book on Shivaji, Maharashtra government today said it will enact a new law to prevent defamation of iconic personalities.

Moving a resolution in the legislative assembly to condemn the American author for his book Shivaji: The Hindu King in Muslim India, Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil said the new legislation, to be introduced in the next session of the House, would provide for stringent action against such authors.

Patil said the law would also cover attempts to hurt caste and religious sentiments. He said though there was an existing provision of 153(a) in the Indian Penal Code to deal with the issue, Tamil Nadu had enacted a separate law.

The Home Minister said Oxford University Press, which published Laine's book, informed him in writing today that despite the apex court order, no fresh copies of the book would be printed.

Later, the resolution condemning the author for the book was adopted by the House unanimously.

"This is an issue of Maharashtra's pride. Shivaji Maharaj cannot be restricted to a particular religion, caste," Patil said.

Earlier, the house witnessed three adjournments due to uproar over certain remarks made by NCP legislator Jeetendra Awhad which were expunged by Deputy Speaker Madhukar Chavan. When the house re-assembled, Awhad said he was withdrawing his remarks.

He demanded that historians in Pune who helped Laine with his research be charged with abetment.

MNS MLA Bala Nandgaonkar condemned attempts made by Awhad to bring in politics of caste in the debate.

Leader of Opposition Eknath Khadse made a pitch for a strict legislation to prevent defamation of iconic personalities and demanded an apology from Patil asking him to own moral responsibility for the government's "failure" to "defend" Shivaji's honour in the Supreme Court.

Khadse said former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee was instrumental in renaming of Mumbai airport after Chhatrapati Shivaji and installation of a lifesize statue of the warrior king outside the airport.

Samajwadi Party MLA Abu Asim Azmi also demanded a legislation to protect the heroes and religious figures from defamation. "Shivaji's army had significant Muslim presence and he treated all religions and communities with respect," he said and demanded to know from the government why it provided security to Salman Rushdie and Tasleema Nasreen despite their defamatory writings against Islam.

Independent MLA Anil Bonde demanded a ban on the Bhandarkar Institute for having helped Laine in his research.

Shiv Sena leader Subhash Desai said historians like Ninad Bedekar, Babasaheb Purandare and others had written to the Oxford press, which published the book pointing out to the historical errors in it.

They had received a letter from Oxford apologising for the mistakes and the historians were informed that Oxford was withdrawing the book and no more printed copies would follow.

"The letter dated November 21, 2003 was forwarded to the Government. But, it failed to submit in the Supreme Court. When the publishers say that they accept the mistake and will withdraw it from the market and will not publish any more copies, the court says that it has lifted the ban on the book. If the government had appropriately furnished the letter before the apex court, it would not have given such a decision," he said.

Desai demanded an inquiry into the incident and said the law minister and bureaucrats concerned should be asked to resign and an inquiry by the legislature members should be instituted against them.

Meanwhile, the same issue was raised in the Legislative Council.

In a reply, Law and Judicial Minister Rashkrishna Vikhe-Patil informed the Legislative Council that a committee has been appointed under Advocate General on the issue.

The members of the committee include including Additional Chief Secretary, Home and Principal Secretary of Law and Judicial Department for the amendment of the section of IPC.

The minister said the State Government properly presented their side before the Court and all the lawyers appointed by the Government performed well.

Shiv Sena leader Diwakar Raote blamed him for the SC’s decision lifting ban on the book and asked him to resign.

Raote said why different justice is meted to different people pointing at ban on author Salman Rashdie’s book The Satanic Verses which was alleged to be written against Allah.

The Leader of Opposition in Legislative Council, Pandurang Phundkar asked the Government to remove the objectionable matter from the book.
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