Proceedings in second case against Heehs stayed by the Orissa High Court

As reported by the Hindu Justice A. S. Naidu of the Orissa High Court has stayed proceedings in a criminal case against Peter Heehs in the court of the subdivisional magistrate, Cuttack. This means, for those unfamiliar with legal terminology, that the case has been taken from the hands of the magistrate, and that all proceedings in the case have been halted until the matter is disposed of by the High Court. In addition the High Court has quashed (nullified) an order that had been passed by the subdivisional magistrate. The fact that the case in the lower court was stayed even before the magistrate was given a chance to hear it shows that the High Court found it to be fundamentally unsound in law.

Our congratulations to Heehs’ lawyer, Prasanta Kishore Ray, and his junior, Bibhu Prasad Tripathy, for their success in obtaining this stay.

This the second of two criminal cases against Heehs that have been stayed by the Orissa High Court. The other case, in the court of a subdivisional magistrate in the remote district Keonjhar, was stayed by Justice R. N. Biswal in May.

Both of these cases had their origin in complaints filed by residents of Orissa who were sent copies of Heehs’s book, The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, by unnamed persons. The complaints were vague and gave no evidence that either complainant had any knowledge of the contents of Heehs’s book. It thus seems possible that the complainants were acting as pawns for the leaders of the Pondicherry-based movement against Heehs.

The two cases appear to have been intended to harass Heehs and to draw attention away from the actual matter of interest before the High Court, a Writ Petition that has delayed the publication of Heehs’s book for twelve months. It is to be hoped that the High Court will be now pass its long-delayed ruling on the Writ Petition, opening the way to the publication of Heehs’s book.

It is worth noting that the Hindu, a daily newspaper that normally provides balanced coverage of the news, has from the beginning provided highly slanted coverage of the cases against Heehs. Note that in the present report the unnamed “correspondent” states that Heehs’s book “has disparaging comments” about Sri Aurobindo, an opinion that only a minority of the hundreds of people who have read and appreciated the book would endorse.

Respite for US writer Correspondent

CUTTACK: The Orissa High Court on Wednesday stayed the trial of a case pending in a lower court here against controversial US writer Peter Heehs who shot into limelight recently for his book on Sri Aurobindo.

The book titled “The Lives of Sri Aurobindo” published by Columbia University Press, US, has disparaging comments about the life of the spiritual leader. Although, the book has not been published in India, there were plans to publish the contentious book in India by Penguin India Publishers sometimes in November 2008.

The SDJM court here after taking cognizance of a petition filed against the US writer and his book, had directed for the personal appearance of the writer. The lower court had even rejected a plea of the writer who had sought to appear in the court through his counsel.

Alleging that the cognizance of the case by the SDJM court suffers from fundamental legal defects, the writer had moved the High Court seeking to quash the proceedings of the trial in the lower court. “The allegations made in the complaint filed in the lower court do not make out any case and the essential ingredients of the offenses have not been established,” Peter Heehs told the High Court.

It may be mentioned here that the SDJM court in its order in September this year had fixed November 17, 2009 for the personal appearance of Peter Heehs disallowing him to be represented by a lawyer.

Terming the order of the lower court as not tenable in the eyes of laws, Peter Heehs advocate Bibhu Tripathy had urged the High Court to quash the SDJM order and stay the trail of the case in the lower court.

Allowing the prayer of the writer, the single judge bench of Justice A.S. Naidu on Wednesday stayed the trial of the case in the lower court while quashing the impugned order of the court passed in September this year.

It may be recalled here that in a similar complaint, a lower court in Barbil of Keonjhar district had also issued NBW against the US writer but the Orissa High Court had intervened by recalling the NBW issued against the writer.