This news page of articles related to the court case against Arundhati Roy will be updated as more news unfolds -- check back from time to time....
Case adjourned, 28 Feb 99.
Court reviews case. Fall 98
In dian opus obscene, court rules -- Sydney Morning Herald, June 21, 1997
Indian Literary Star faces caste sex trial, 2 July 1997
Court summons Arundhati Roy, June 20 1997.
Court summons Arundhati Roy
June 20, 1997
Arundhati Roy, author of The God of Small Things, has been summoned by the first class judicial magistrate in Kochi to appear in the court on August 19 in connection with a public interest petition filed against her book.
The petition filed by advocate Sabu Thomas alleges that the novel was obscene and likely to corrupt or deprave the minds of readers. After initial hearing on Wednesday, the magistrate F Satheesh observed that there was a prima facie case against the author and issued a summons under Section 292 of the IPC.
WITH her mass of untamed curls and smouldering dark eyes Arundhati Roy could be the model for one of her romantic heroines. But the Indian author hailed as the literary discovery of 1997 is about to star in a drama every bit as gripping as the plot of her extraordinary first novel, The God of Small Things.
After a rapturous tour of the literary salons of Europe and America, Roy has been summoned back home for a court appearance next month. She is being called on to defend the morality of her best-selling book in a dusty courtroom in Pathanamithitta, a backwater town in Kerala, the Marxist-controlled southern state where she grew up and where her novel is set.
According to Sabu Thomas, a lawyer who has filed the complaint against Roy, her book is undermining public morality and should be banned unless the final chapter is removed.
Roy's transgression is not that the book is sexually explicit, although there are graphic sex scenes dotted throughout the work, but that the offending passages describe lovemaking between a Christian businesswoman and an outcast Hindu handyman. Such a liaison is taboo in a society where the morality code emphasises the strictures against mixing below your caste.
Beautiful, outspoken and unconventional, Roy, 37, represents the spirit of the new India unfettered by such claustrophobic traditions. For this reason, and following the spectacular success of her novel, the case against Roy looks set to signal another round in the battle for the soul of India.
Already established as a journalist and screenwriter, Roy's debut as a novelist has taken the literary world by storm. In the latest New Yorker magazine John Updike compares its publication to the impact the young golfer Tiger Woods made at the Grand Masters tournament in Atlanta. Updike goes on to exult over her echoes of William Faulkner, James Joyce and Vladimir Nabokov.
In Britain, The God of Small Things has just topped The Sunday Times fiction bestseller list after four weeks in the top 10. Worldwide hardback sales have nudged 100,000.
In India, the book has been on sale for just three months but is now on its fifth print run a phenomenal success for stylised and quirky fiction that costs 400 rupees (£7), the equivalent of three days' average wages in the sub-continent. Readers have snapped up 25,000 copies in a country where English is just one of 18 official languages.
The book tells the story of twins growing up in rural India. Some say Thomas's distress over the liaison between their mother in the book and a handyman from the lowest untouchable caste is a perfect mirror of the suffocating provincial values Roy describes in her novel.
While some reviewers in Delhi have complained that Roy's lyrical eroticism reads like a schoolgirl's bodice-ripper romance, panning the scenes as the weakest portion of the novel, the passage that Thomas is attempting to have censored is considered quite tame in the country which produced the classic Kama Sutra sex manual back in AD459. Almost every souvenir vendor in India stocks specially illustrated volumes of the Kama Sutra designed for tourists, lovers and loners to tuck under their pillows.
The works of Shoba De, a wry Bombay socialite whose racy paperbacks have often been compared to Jackie Collins' Hollywood sex and shopping sagas, are not censored either.
But Roy should have predicted that even fictional characters indulging in socially abhorred practices would still be considered indecent in her home state.
"I am afraid that his lawsuit cannot be dismissed as frivolous. Nothing is," sighed the author, as two pet dachshunds yipped at her slender legs at her home in Delhi. "It's so sad. Like everything else about this book, it's been blown out of all proportion."
But a sense of proportion is difficult for anyone trying to take the measure of Roy, a tiny woman now hailed from Australia to Oslo for her prodigious talent. "People's response to my book is refracted through adulation or hostility," she remarked shortly before her book tour.
David Godwin, her British agent, was so impressed after reading her unsolicited manuscript that he immediately committed himself to what he declared "a masterpiece". When a transatlantic auction of the rights secured more than $1m (£602,000) in advance payments for the unproven novelist, the hysteria generated considerable envy in India's tight literary circles. The only other Indian writers in the same financial league are Salman Rushdie and Vikram Seth, who wrote A Suitable Boy.
Critics sharpened their pencils with gleeful anticipation when her book finally came out, but most were captivated after hearing the author read aloud in public. Those who were not risked being accused of sour grapes.
The obscenity trial, however, has been triggered by Roy's blunt reminder that untouchables, who prefer now to be known as "Dalits" "the oppressed" still exist, even in modern India. Ever since Mahatma Gandhi coined the term Harijan, ("Children of God") over a half century ago, reminders of the inhumane treatment routinely suffered by the unfortunate Indian drones who rank outside the Hindu caste system have been avoided by euphemism.
"I wish the whole thing would die down," said Roy. "He's just one man out of the entire country who has a problem with this. He claims that he was morally corrupted by reading my book. Maybe the high court will quash the motion. We're going to try." IndiaInk, a publishing venture which was created specifically to launch Roy's novel, has sworn it will support her to the last.
Court reviews case
Roy has won a four-month stay while the high
court reviews whether the case should
have been admitted at all. She is optimistic, saying the Indian
high court's decisions generally are
very enlightened. India lives in several centuries
simultaneously, she says.
28 Feb 99.
The case filed by Booker Prize winner Arundhati Roy in the Kerala High Court challenging the Pathanamthitta first class magistrate court's proceedings against her has been adjourned till March 15. The court proceedings followed a suit filed by Sabu Thomas of Kozhencherry alleging that Roy's novel, "God of Small Things," contained "obscene sentences." According to Thomas, the last chapter of the novel is likely to corrupt or deprave the minds of the readers. The Pathanamthitta court had issued summons to Roy and RST India Ink Publishing Company Director Sanjeev Saith in 1997.