Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Wednesday asked Elgar Parishad-Bhima Koregaon case accused Vernon Gonsalves to explain why he had kept "objectionable material" like a copy of Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" and some CDs at his home.
A single-judge bench of Justice Sarang Kotwal hearing the bail plea of Gonsalves and others also said that "such books" and CDs prima facie indicated they contained some material against the State.
The classic novel about Russia during Napoleonic wars became a point of contention during the day's hearing after the Pune Police probing the case claimed that the book was part of the "highly incriminating evidence" it had seized from Gonsalves' house in Mumbai during raids conducted a year ago.
The Pune Police also read out the titles of several other books and CDs allegedly recovered from Gonsalves' house which included CDs titled 'Rajya Daman Virodhi' released by Kabir Kala Manch, 'Marxist Archives' and 'Jai Bhima Comrade'; books 'War and Peace', 'Understanding Maoists' and 'RCP Review', and copies of a circular issued by the National Study Circle.
"The title of the CD 'Rajya Daman Virodhi' itself suggests it has something against the State while 'War and Peace' is about a war in another country. Why did you (Gonsalves) keep objectionable material such as this at home? You will have to explain this to the court," said Justice Kotwal.
Gonsalves was arrested by the Pune police under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act after raids at residences and offices of several activists in connection with the Elgar Parishad case.
Gonsalves' counsel Mihir Desai told the high court that Pune Police had based the entire case against him on the basis of some emails and letters recovered from the computers of other people.
"None of these letters or emails were written by Gonsalves, or were addressed to him. Therefore, in the absence of any cogent incriminating evidence against him, Gonsalves shouldn't be denied bail," Desai argued.
Desai countered the prosecution argument on incriminating material, saying "mere possession" of such books and CDs "did not make Gonsalves a terrorist, or a member of any banned Maoist group".
Agreeing with defence that mere possession of such material does not make anyone a terrorist, Justice Kotwal, however, said Gonsalves will have to explain why he kept such material at his home.