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Siberian court refuses to classify Bhagavad-Gita as extremist book

March 21, 2012, 18:34 UTC+3

Indian ambassador in Moscow, Ajay Malhotra hailed the decision of the Tomsk regional court to turn down the prosecutors' appeal

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TOMSK, March 21 (Itar-Tass) — Court of the Tomsk region has turned down an appeal wherein the Prosecutor’s Office asked it to repeal the December 2011 ruling of the court of a lower jurisdiction to recognize the Krishnaist philosophical treatise ‘Bhagavad Gita As It Is’ to be an extremist book.

“The Tomsk regional court turned down the appeal by the prosecutors and left the original ruling of the Lenin district court unchallenged,” the regional court press secretary, Yekaterina Karpenko told Itar-Tass.

Last summer, the Prosecutor of the City of Tomsk filed a petition with the district court to recognize the materials included in ‘Bhagavad-Gita As It Is’ /with the comments by Abhay Charanaravinda Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement/ as an extremist work and to ban its circulation in the Russian Federation.

The initial expert study of the book’s texts was done by scholars of Tomsk State University, one of the most respected schools of higher learning in Russia, but they withheld their opinions confirming the prosecutor’s stance at a later date in the course of hearings in the courtroom.

A new expert study was done by scholars from the University of neighboring Kemerovo region and they, too, found some passages from the 800-page book to be indicative “of a possible calling for extremism.”

However, in December the Lenin district court refused to recognize the treatise as a work of extremist nature. It said the main criterion for classifying any text as an extremist one is the presence of calls for extremist actions and justifications or buttressing of such actions in it.

“The propaganda of exclusiveness of the teaching found in ‘Bhagavad Gita As It Is’ cannot be viewed as proof of extremist activity, since each and every religion seeks to project an absolute and all-embracing image and to show the falsity of other religions,” the district court said.

“The criticism of political organizations, ideological and religious associations, political, ideological or religious convictions, national and/or religious customs should not be regarded per se as an action aiming to stir hatred or animosity,” the court’s resolution said.

The Prosecutor of Tomsk city then filed an appeal with the regional court. He said the district court had made its conclusions in the wake of an incorrect application of the norms of substantial law in the field of counteraction to extremist activity.

Adepts of the Krishna Consciousness Society living in Tomsk insisted in their comments on the Prosecutor’s appeal that the latter did not contain a clear argumentation and revealed inconsistency in the use of names or titles.

‘Bhagavad-Gita As It Is’ contains the translation of ancient Hindu Scriptures and comments with a strong emphasis on the path of bhakti yoga in the tradition of Gaudiya Vaishnavism. A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada compiled it in the 1960’s.

Indian ambassador in Moscow, Ajay Malhotra hailed the decision of the Tomsk regional court to turn down the prosecutors' appeal.

He said he hopes the debates on the issue of 'Bhagavad Gita As It Is' are fully over now.


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