May 12, 2021
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'Grounds Must Be Distinguished From Opinion'

The Supreme Court, finally, lifts its stay on the Bombay High Court order quashing the Maharashtra government ban on James W. Laine's controversial book on Shivaji

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'Grounds Must Be Distinguished From Opinion'

James W. Laine's 2003 book, Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India has been at the centre of a controversy in Maharashtra for a long time. There was vandalism, protests and Maharashtra government issued a notification banning the book. Sundry charges were also levied against the author and publishers.  

On April 5, 2007, the Supreme Court quashed the FIR No.10 of 2004 registered at the Deccan Police Station, Pune, against the appellants and author of the book under Sections 153, 153A and 34 of the Indian Penal Code. The Court had gone on to say:

It is the sole responsibility of the State to make positive efforts to resolve every possible conflict between any of the communities, castes or religions within the State and try every possible way to establish peace and harmony within the State under every and all circumstances. 

Following the above, in its judgement of April 26, 2007, the Bombay High Court quashed Maharashtra government's notification dated 28.12.2006, directing it "to forthwith release all the books which were forfeited and seized"

The Maharashtra government challenged the above in the Supreme Court which stayed the Bombay High Court Order, thus allowing the ban to continue. 

The SC also issued a notice to James W. Laine to find out whether he would be agreeable to deletions of certain paragraphs in his book found objectionable by the State Government to meet "ends of justice". 

Mr Laine refused any deletions.

Now, in its judgement of April 9, 2010, the Supreme Court says:

no fault can be found with the finding of the High Court to the effect that there is nothing on record on the basis whereof the Government could form the opinion that the book was likely to promote disharmony or feeling of enmity between various groups or likely to cause disturbance to public tranquillity and maintenance of harmony between various groups.

No ground is made out warranting our interference with the impugned judgment.

The SC dismissed the Maharashtra government appeal, finally lifting its stay of the Bombay High Court Order, and thus in effect lifting the ban of the book.

Full text of the judgement:


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