As Hindus in Russia celebrated their legal victory over efforts to have the Bhagavad Gita banned, they are bracing to counter any move by Tomsk city state prosecutors to appeal against the Siberian court verdict dismissing the plea to brand the revered text as “extremist” literature.
With the Leninsky district court Federal Judge G.E. Butenko rejecting the petition of Tomsk city state prosecutors to ban the Gita, Hindus and Krishna devotees in Russia and members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) in India held celebratory sessions at their temples and held prayers to express their happiness over the verdict.
“We are very happy with the judgment of the Tomsk city court. To express thanks and our joy, several thousands of Hindus in Russia and Iskcon devotees gathered at the Krishna temple in Moscow and other Iskcon centres in 80 cities of Russia to celebrate and hold prayers,” Sadhu Priya Das, a leader of the Iskcon movement in Russia, told over the phone from Moscow.
In India too, Krishna devotees visited the Iskcon centres and temples to hold celebratory prayers, according to Vrajendra Nandan Das, director and vice president at the Iskcon committee in Delhi.
“In fact, we are planning to hold Bhagavad Gita distribution campaigns in the national capital over the next two days to mark this victory in the Russia court case,” Nandan Das told .
The Tomsk court verdict came about after India took up the matter with Russia, following an report on the case caused a political storm in parliament, with MPs calling for the government to protect the rights of Hindus in Russia.
Meanwhile, Hindus in Russia are watchful of the Tomsk state prosecutors as the law provides for them to appeal in the supreme court of Russia in their case seeing a ban on “Bhagavad Gita As It Is” written by Iskcon founder A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhapada and declare distribution of its Russian translation in Russia illegal.
“The state prosecutors do have a right of appeal against the Tomsk city court verdict in the Russian supreme court. But we will get to know if they will appeal only after the 10-day holiday to usher in the New Year. We will also get a copy of the Tomsk court verdict only after the holidays,” Sadhu Priya Das said.
He said personally, he was hopeful the state prosecutors may not appeal, as there was no private party in the case that was aggrieved by the judgment.
“It is a state prosecutors’ case. So they may decide against appealing. We hope they decide against it,” he added.
Legal eagles from India too warned of possibilities of Tomsk state prosecutors appealing against the lower court’s judgment in the Russian supreme court.
K.V. Dhananjay, a Supreme Court of India lawyer and leader of an advocates’ coalition wanting to implead in the Siberian court case earlier, said there were legal provisions under the Russian federal law on countering extremist activity for an appeal.
“Article 13 of the Federal Law on Counteracting Extremist Activity assures an appeal against any decision on the inclusion of materials in the federal list of extremist materials,” he pointed out.
“The prosecutors may still appeal to the supreme court of the Russian Federation against the decision of the Leninsky district court to refuse declaring the ‘Bhagavad Gita As It Is’ as extremist literature for the purpose of Article 1 of their federal law.
“We hope that good sense will prevail upon those prosecutors and they will realise the blunder they just committed. This decision of the district court may even help the cause of religious freedom in Russia that has come under increasing attack in recent years by overzealous prosecutors,” Dhananjay added.