New Delhi: In a last ditch effort to save Bhagavad Gita from a ban, aghast Hindus in Russia appealed to the Siberian court to seek the views of the nation's human rights panel on the religious text and preachings, before pronouncing its verdict. Following their last-minute plea, represented by their advocate Mikhail Fralov, the court in Tomsk city in Siberia has given the human rights panel 24 hours to come with its deposition, following which it will deliver the verdict on Tuesday.

The court, which has been hearing the case filed by the state prosecutors since June, was otherwise ready to deliver its judgment Monday.

The development comes just two days after Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh returned home December 17 from Moscow after the annual Summit meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev Dec 16.

After the report, parliamentarians across the political spectrum on Monday created a ruckus in Parliament and asked the government to ensure the religious rights of Hindus in Russia are protected.

Meanwhile, the prosecution in Russia also wants the Russian translation of 'Bhagavad Gita As It Is' by AC Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the founder of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon), declared illegal, claiming it spread 'hatred'.

In view of the case, Hindus settled in Moscow, numbering about 15,000, and followers of the Iskcon movement in Russia have asked the Indian government to intervene diplomatically to resolve the issue in favour of the scripture, an important part of Indian epic Mahabharata written by sage Ved Vyas.

Iskcon followers in Russia have also written a letter to the Prime Minister's Office in New Delhi, calling for immediate intervention, lest the religious freedom of Hindus living there be compromised.

“When the matter came up before the court, our advocate pleaded to pronounce the verdict after hearing the view of Russia's Human Rights Committee on what it thought of Bhagavad Gita and of Hindus' religious rights,” said Sadhu Priya Das of Iskcon.

“The court accepted the plea and has given 24 hours for the committee to come with its deposition before it,' Das, who is a devotee at a 40-year-old Krishna temple in central Moscow, said over the phone from Moscow.

“This is our last ditch effort to convince the court to see our point of view and uphold Hindus' religious rights. The verdict will now come out on Tuesday,” he said.

Advocate Fralov, speaking over phone from Tomsk where he had appeared in the court hearing earlier, said the defence sought the deposition of the human rights panel in the case because they wanted to use all the legal options to defend the Gita.

“One of the last few options was to get the Human Rights Committee involved in the case, so that the rights of minorities get highlighted before the court,” Fralov said.

He also said Hindus and Krishna devotees in Russia had much earlier represented to the human rights panel asking it to give its views before the court, which it agreed to. The committee, later, also wrote to the Tomsk court that it would like to present its views on the case, which the court accepted.

Ruckus in Parliament

Parliamentarians across the political spectrum Monday asked the government to ensure that the religious rights of Hindus in Russia are protected after a member pointed out a report about the Bhagvad Gita facing a ban and the prospect of it being branded as 'extremist' literature there.

Angry MPs forced the adjournment of the Lok Sabha till 2 pm after Biju Janata Dal leader Bhartruhari Mahtab raised the issue in the house and asked the government to intervene immediately to ensure the religious freedom of Hindus in Russia.

He said a court in Siberia's Tomsk city was set to deliver its final verdict Monday in a case filed by state prosecutors, as was reported on Saturday, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was on an official visit to Moscow.

“I want to know from the government what it is doing. The religious rights of Hindus in Russia should be protected. The government should impress upon the Russian authorities through diplomatic channels,” he said.

When Mahtab raised the issue, the lower house plunged into chaos, with MPs urging Speaker Meira Kumar to let them speak on the matter. She, however, refused and instead asked them to send notes and associate with Mahtab.

Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RLD) was heard shouting that the Hindu scripture does not preach extremism.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) members were also seen rising from their seats to protest the issue before Meira Kumar adjourned the house till 2 pm.

PIL seeks Centre's intervention

A public interest litigation filed in Bombay High Court on Monday has sought Centre's intervention in the case before a Russian court, where a ban on Bhagvad Gita has been demanded.

Petitioners, Vijay Dave, an IIT alumnus, and Rasendu Nanavati, have quoted newspaper reports that the applicants before the court at Tomsk in Russia have sought ban on Gita,
dubbing it as a literature spreading social discord.

Petitioners' lawyers, advocates M I Sethna and Advait Sethna, argued that Gita is a sacred text, and attempts to ban it would have far-reaching implications not only in India but also internationally.

Lawyers contended that the Indian government had not made its stand clear, particularly when the case has been going on since June. Some assurance should be given by the government that steps had been taken, and India's stand should be properly represented as a ban would set a precedent in less secular countries.

PIL argues that the subject concerned not just the Indians in Russia, but had world-wide significance. Any failure on Indian government's part to intervene, supported by in-depth
research, scholastic views and analysis, would cause irretrievable damage to our rich culture and heritage, the petition contends.

The bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Roshan Dalvi adjourned the hearing on PIL till December 21.

(JPN/Agencies)