The Bombay High Court on Thursday set aside the Maharashtra government's notification banning American author James Laine's controversial book Shivaji - The Hindu King in Islamic India.
A full bench comprising Justices F I Rebello, Abhay Oka and V K Tahilramani pronounced the judgment.
Despite Associate Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhkoni's plea, the court refused to stay its verdict. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court had quashed criminal proceedings against Laine.
Lawyer Sanghraj Rupawate, documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan and rights activist Kunda Pramila had filed the current petition in the High Court following a government notification banning the book in January 2004.
The ban was prompted by the ransacking of the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute in Pune allegedly by the Sambhaji Brigade and violent protests elsewhere in the state. Laine had done some of his research at the institute.
The petitioners argued that the book did not contain anything disparaging or scurrilous about Shivaji, whom they too respect.
Their lawyer P A Sebastian argued that there were no two groups between which the book allegedly promoted enmity. One of the grounds cited by the government for the ban was that the book promoted enmity between various groups, more particularly between 'those who revere Shivaji and those who do not.'The notification also cited law and order and breach of public tranquillity as grounds for the ban.