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Booker or not, Arundhati's still in the dock

Chindu Sreedharan

Arundhati Roy's just-won Booker prize doesn't make any difference to lawyers G M Idikkula and Sabu Thomas -- in the dock they want her, and in the dock, they say, they will see her sooner or later.

Idikkula and Thomas, for the uninitiated, are the Kerala lawyers who, three months ago, dragged Roy and her God Of Small Things to court for 'obscenity'.

"The award doesn't affect the case in any way," Idikkula told Rediff On The NeT in a telephone interview from Pathanamthitta, Kerala, "Why should it? It came her way because of the sales."

Following their June 16 suit, the Pathanamthitta court had issued summons to Roy for August 15. However, the author had moved the Kerala high court on August 5 and got an interim stay order.

"We have already filed our reply to the high court and requested an early hearing," Idikkula said.

The high court has now summoned the petitioners on Monday, October 20.

"Before the high court," says Idikkula, "Roy claimed her novel is not vulgar and that it was not submitted before the Pathanamthitta court. Which is not true -- the judge issued the summons after he went through the book."

The lawyers's claim is that the book -- especially the culminating chapter, wherein a sexual encounter between the upper caste heroine and her lower caste lover is described -- violates 'norms of decency.'

"I have read the book three times. That chapter is unwanted. Roy wrote it to help the sales," Idikkula claimed, "She violates all decency with her description of oral sex. That's an unnatural phenomenon and unheard of in Kerala. It pollutes the minds of the people in this era of AIDS."

But aren't writers given more freedom than usual? And it isn't as if Roy's book is the only one that describes sex...

"But why should we care about all the obscene books on earth? This one is about Ayemenem, a town we all know well!" Idikkula said, "True, authors are usually granted more freedom and there is the Constitutional right of speech and expression. But this transcends all that. The speech and expression should be within the limit of decency."

"Also," he continued, "in most of the other books, it is normal sex that's described. Not abnormal sex like this!"

As of now, Idikkula is confident the case will go his way. He quotes a 1965 Supreme Court order -- regarding the distribution of D H Lawrence's famed Lady Chatterley's Lover -- in his support.

"The ruling was made by a five-bench judge," he said, "It clearly mentions that the freedom of speech and expression should not be violative of IPC 292, the interpretation of which decides whether a book is obscene or not."

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