Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Thursday said it knew that Leo Tolstoy's 'War and Peace' was a literary classic and that it didn't mean to suggest that all the books seized by Pune police in the Elgar Parishad-Koregaon Bhima case were incriminating.
The observation by Justice Sarang Kotwal came a day after media reports said he asked accused Vernon Gonsalves to explain why he kept "objectionable material" like a copy of "War and Peace" at his home.
The purported remarks also stirred up thousands of reactions on Twitter. The hashtag #WarAndPeace has been trending on the social media platform during the day.
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 chargesheet. It was written in such poor handwriting. I know War and Peace. I was making a query on the entire list that police has mentioned (as evidence)."
Yug Chaudhary, counsel for co-accused Sudha Bahrdwaj, then told the court that the 'War and Peace' that the court had referred to on Wednesday was a collection of essays edited by one Biswajit Roy, and was titled War and Peace in Junglemahal: People, State and Maoists.
On Wednesday, the court had asked, "War and Peace is about war in another country. Why were you keeping these books at your house."
The judge had also referred to a CD titled "Rajya Dhaman Virodhi" and said the title "clearly suggested" it is material against the state. "Why were you keeping this in your house," he had asked Gonsalves.
Tolstoy's classic novel about Russia during Napoleonic wars became a point of contention during Wednesday'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 last year.
Pune police had 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.
"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," Justice Kotwal had said.
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 Koregaon Bhima village in Pune district the next day during an event to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Koregaon Bhima.
One person was killed and others were injured in the violence. Dalits celebrate the anniversary of the Koregaon Bhima battle every year as they believe that the Army of the British comprising 'Mahars' or scheduled caste soldiers had defeated the forces of the Brahmin Peshwas. 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.