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Russian court DISMISSES plea against translated Bhagavad Gita

Last updated on: March 21, 2012 19:22 IST

Russian court DISMISSES plea against translated Bhagvad Gita

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A Russian court on Wednesday dismissed a petition seeking a ban on a translated version of Bhagavad Gita for being "extremist", bringing cheers to followers across the world, months after the issue threatened to strain Moscow's strategic ties with India.

"The court in the Siberian city of Tomsk has dismissed the plea," Sadhu Priya Das of Moscow International Society for Krishna Consciousness told PTI soon after the verdict was announced.

The verdict also comes just days before Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's visit to India next week for the BRICS Summit.

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Russian court DISMISSES plea against Gita

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State prosecutors in the Siberian city of Tomsk had filed an appeal against a lower court's dismissal of their original plea seeking a ban on "Bhagavad Gita As It Is", written by A C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON.

They had claimed that the text was "extremist" literature full of hatred and insult to non-believers which promoted social discord.

The higher court in Tomsk "kept the verdict of the lower court intact," a joyful Das said. As the judge dismissed the plea, the followers in the packed courtroom burst into applause, he said.

"We are grateful to the Russian judicial system," Das said.

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Russian court DISMISSES plea against Gita

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In a statement, the Tomsk district court said after Wednesday's verdict that it had decided "to leave unchanged" a lower court's December 28 ruling that the book did not contain extremist material.

However, the prosecutors could still challenge in the order in another higher court.

"An appeal to a higher court can now only be made by the region's prosecutor general," Russian news agencies quoted a prosecutor's office as saying.

Meanwhile, Indian Ambassador to Russia, Ajai Malhotra, welcomed the decision of the court.

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Image: A member of the global Hare Krishna sect plays a trumpet during a protest outside the Russian consulate in Kolkata
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

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Russian court DISMISSES plea against Gita

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"I welcome the verdict of the Honourable District Court in Tomsk on Wednesday, which has dismissed the appeal petition in the Bhagavad Gita case," Malhotra said in a statement.

"It is good that the decision of the lower trial court in this matter has been reaffirmed. I trust that this issue is now conclusively behind us," Malhotra added.

After the verdict, Alexander Shakhov, ISKCON's court representative, was quoted as saying by Vesti news channel: "This is a completely just, reasonable and -- most importantly -- legitimate decision."

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Image: External Affairs Minister SM Krishna
Photographs: Reuters

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Russian court DISMISSES plea against Gita

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Brajendra Nandan Das, director, ISKCON media communication in India, expressed happiness over the verdict. "We have won. The petition seeking a ban on the book has been dismissed," he told PTI.

The case had drawn a flurry of criticism from Hindus across the world.

When the petition was dismissed by the lower court in Tomsk in December last year, India had welcomed the verdict as a "sensible resolution of a sensitive issue".

The original petition seeking a ban on the translated version of the holy scripture was filed in June 2011 and the trial prompted sharp reactions from across the world.

External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had asked the Russian government to help resolve the issue quickly. Bhagavad Gita was first published in Russia in 1788 and since then it has been republished many times in various translations.

Last month, participants at conference on Bhagavad Gita had suggested creation of an independent board of scholars to evaluate various texts for signs of extremism.

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Image: Activists shout slogans during a protest against the plea to ban Gita
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters

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