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SC questions Gujarat to explain ban on Jaswant’s Book
Published on 2 Sep. 2009 12:26 AM IST
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The Supreme Court today sought a response from the Gujarat government on its decision to ban expelled BJP leader Jaswant Singh’s controversial book on Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah saying an ex-parte stay on the ban would not be appropriate. The apex court preferred to give a week’s time to Gujarat government to explain its stand for issuing notification banning the book ‘Jinnah -- India, Partition, Independence’ which has been challenged by Jaswant Singh. “The ex-parte stay would not be appropriate,” a Bench comprising Justices Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph said while issuing notice to the state government for its response on Singh’s plea seeking quashing of the notification banning the book on the charge that its contents were against public tranquillity and national interest. The Bench posted the matter for hearing on September 8 asking Gujarat government counsel Hemantika Wahi, who was present in the courtroom, to take instruction from the authorities for responding to the allegations made in the petition. Senior Advocates Fali S Nariman and Soli Sorabjee, appearing for the veteran politician and publisher of the book, Rupa and Co., contended that banning of the book was violative of fundamental rights of its author and publisher. They sought preponment of hearing from September 11 contending that “it was not a bonafide attempt to ban the book” by Gujarat government as it violates the fundamental rights of speech and expression guranteed under Article 19 (1) (A) of the Constitution. Before advancing the date of hearing, the Bench wanted to know why the petition has been filed in the apex court instead of the Gujarat High Court. Nariman said it was so because the right to speech and expression is a prefrential right like the right to life and liberty under Article 21. Nariman and Sorabjee wanted the judges to read the book, to which they said they will do it after hearing the matter on September 8. Jaswant Singh, who was present in the courtroom when his petition was mentioned by the two senior advocates, later told reporters that Gujarat government banned the book without reading it. “Nobody has read the book. It is not possible that the book could be read between its launch and the day it was banned,” he said. Nariman and Sorabjee also submitted that within two days of the release of the book, Gujarat government came out with a notification to ban it. Asked that he has made allegation of malafide on the part of Gujarat government, Singh said “it was an attempt to stifle and suppress my voice which amounts to suppression of thoughts and expression”. The- 71-year-old politician challenged the state government’s notification alleging the authority banned the book arbitrarily and without going through its contents. “Fundamental right of freedom of speech has been sought to be taken away by Gujarat government by banning the book through a hasty and arbitrary notification,” Singh said in his petition. Jaswant not to quit PAC A combative Jaswant Singh Tuesday said he would not quit as chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, a day after the expelled Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader was told by his former party to quit the parliamentary post. Asked by reporters if he would oblige the BJP by quitting the PAC, Jaswant Singh said he would not. “The decision (to ask him to quit the PAC) is of the (Lok Sabha) speaker, and not of a political party,” he said. The PAC scrutinises government spending. The Darjeeling MP had been reportedly asked by the BJP Monday to quit the post since he had been expelled from the party. He also said he would not rejoin the BJP or any other party like the Samajwadi Party, which has been sending him feelers ever since his ouster from the BJP last month. “I have no intention to join that party (BJP). I have got its door closed for me,” Singh said when reporters asked him if he would consider rejoining the BJP, with which he was associated for 30 years. Asked by IANS whether he would consider joining the Samajwadi Party, he said he will not join any other party too. He was speaking to reporters in the Supreme Court premises where he had come for the hearing on his lawsuit challenging the Gujarat government’s decision to ban his controversial book “Jinnah: India - Partition - Independence”, in which he has praised Pakistan founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah. The BJP expelled him over the book.

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