Russian court rejects call to ban Hindu holy book Bhagavad Gita

March 22, 2012

(A child dressed as Hindu Lord Krishna poses with a miniature 'Bhagavad-Gita', a scared scripture of Hinduism, in the northern Indian city of Chandigarh May 1, 2009. REUTERS/Ajay Verma)

A Russian court has rejected a call from prosecutors to ban one of Hinduism’s holiest books, avoiding a diplomatic tussle days before President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to India.

Indian lawmakers had criticized the case strongly. Russia and India have vibrant trade ties dating back to the Soviet era and New Delhi is Moscow’s top arms customer, buying several billion dollars in weapons every year.

Prosecutors argue that the book – a translation of the Bhagavad Gita – included a commentary that was ‘hostile to other faiths’. Initial reports of the court case against the book caused Indian parliamentarians to adjourn in protest last year.

Medvedev will go to India next week for a summit of the BRICS group of emerging market powerhouses Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The decision made by a top court in the Siberian province of Tomsk on Wednesday upheld a ruling made late last year by a lower district court.

“I believe this is an absolutely fair, logical and most important of all – a law-abiding decision,” Interfax quoted Alexander Shakhov, lawyer for a Hare Krishna society in Tomsk, as saying.

India’s foreign minister condemned the case last year as “patently absurd” and said he had raised it with senior Russian officials.

Rights activists say local officials have exploited Russia’s vaguely worded law on extremism in recent years to persecute religious groups frowned upon by the dominant Russian Orthodox Church.

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