Justice Sarang Kotwal of Bombay High Court and lawyers for the state and the accused clarified in the court on Thursday that the book that he had referred to on Wednesday was not War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy but War and Peace in Junglemahal by Biswajit Roy, which was seized by Pune police from the home of activist Vernon Gonsalves.
Justice Kotwal said he knows Tolstoy’s War and Peace is a “literary classic” and also said the list of books, documents and CDs in the punchnama was in “bad handwriting”.
He said, “I have never said that whatever was recovered from you was incriminating, it is for you to explain that it is not [incriminating]. I have not formed my opinion and that is why I asked you to clarify. Whatever I read, basically the handwriting was hardly legible, I was helping you [lawyer] read it because it was in Marathi. And before we went to War and Peace in Jungle Mahal’ there was a reference to ‘State Repression’.
He added, “Mao-adhyanche Yudh Konasathi Kashasathi… ‘War’ was with reference to that. And even War and Peace is with reference to that. There is no reference to the Leo Tolstoy book in the panchnama at all.”
It was advocate Yug Chaudhry, who represents accused Sudha Bhardwaj in the case, who brought up the matter in the court. Addressing the bench, he said that “at no time did lordship ever mention Leo Tolstoy. This book was written by Biswajit Roy. When you (Justice Kotwal) asked what was seized from the house of Vernon Gonsalves, a punchnama was shown to the court.”
Both senior counsel Mihir Desai and Additional Public Prosecutor Aruna Pai agreed with Chaudhry’s submission.
After this, Justice Kotwal said he knew that War and Peace was a “literary classic”. He said, “What is reported, I am shocked…I hope I have sufficiently clarified. I am happy that you are with me in this. I am worried about the institution (Bombay High Court) and not me.”
The court was hearing the bail plea of Vernon Gonsalves, who was arrested by Pune Police on August 28 last year for alleged links with the CPI(Maoist). The bail application of Gonsalves was heard with the bail pleas of other accused Sudha Bhardwaj and Arun Fereira.
Justice Kotwal and Yug Chaudhry were referring to media reports, including in The Indian Express, that during Wednesday’s hearing, the judge read out the title War and Peace from the list. The Indian Express quoted him as saying, “Why would you keep a book about a war in another country at your home?”