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Updated: September 1, 2009 23:48 IST

Supreme Court issues notice to Gujarat on Jaswant book ban

Legal Correspondent
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Jaswant Singh signs copies of his book
The Hindu
Jaswant Singh signs copies of his book "Jinnah: India-Partition-Independence" at the Delhi Book Fair on August 29. Photo: V. Sudershan

The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to the Gujarat government on a writ petition filed by the expelled BJP leader, Jaswant Singh, and the publisher, challenging the notification banning the book Jinnah — India, Partition, Independence.

A Bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph issued the notice during ‘mention’ time after hearing senior counsel Fali Nariman, appearing for Mr. Singh and senior counsel Soli Sorabjee for the publisher Rupa and Co.

Counsel submitted that the ban order violated the petitioners’ fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression as guaranteed under Article 19 (1) (a) of the Constitution.

Mr. Justice Kabir told counsel, “ex-parte stay is not proper and would not be appropriate as it would amount to granting the main relief.”

As counsel for Gujarat Hemantika Wahi was present in the court, the Bench, while issuing the notice, asked her to take instructions on the issue of granting interim relief and posted the matter for further hearing to September 8.

Mr. Nariman cited precedents when the Supreme Court had intervened and sought interim stay on the ban order contending that freedom of speech and expression was a preferential right.

When Mr. Justice Kabir asked whether copies of the book had been brought to the court, counsel said copies were available and the Judges could read the book. Mr. Justice Kabir, however, said: “We will do it after the hearing.”

In his petition, Mr. Singh, along with Rupa and Co., said the book was released on the evening of August 17 and this was published in various newspapers the next day. On August 19, the Gujarat government issued a notification banning the book.

The notification “ex-facie and per se infringes the fundamental right of the petitioner and is not justified under Section 95 of the Cr.P.C., especially since it does not set out the matter, which is allegedly punishable under Section 153 A and 153 B of the IPC nor the grounds of the State government’s notification.”

The petition said the book, pertaining to the Partition era, included appendices that reflected an in-depth research on the subject as well as support the commentary and thesis on the role of Jinnah in the Partition and it took five years for the first petitioner to complete the book. It was published and intended to be circulated throughout India and any impediment to its distribution and circulation in one State would constitute and infringement of his fundamental right.

It sought a direction to quash the notification and a direction to prohibit the Gujarat government from seizing or forfeiting the book or copies thereof.

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