A two-judge bench of the Bombay High Court comprising Justices Prasanna B. Varale and S.M. Modak took suo motu notice of a news item published in Loksatta dated November 24 which stated that due to ill-equipped government press, the state government had not been able to meet the readers’ demand for more copies of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s writings and speeches.
According to the news item, the state government undertook a project of publishing Ambedkar’s literature in response to popular demand from academic, researchers and the general public. The state government reportedly issued directions to print nine lakh copies of the volumes of the writings and speeches of Ambedkar, and purchased paper for printing to the tune of Rs. 5,45,00,000. During the last four years, however, only 33,000 copies were printed, and the rest of the paper purchased for the project, according to the newspaper, is lying in godowns unutilised.
Of the 33,000 prints, only 3675 copies were made available for distribution.
The newspaper blamed old machinery and inadequate human resources as factors responsible for what the court termed as a “sorry state of affairs”.
The state government has so far published 1 to 21 volumes of Ambedkar’s Writings and Speeches, and due to heavy demand from readers, these volumes are to be printed time and again.
The bench noted in its order: “The publication is absolutely necessary and desirable for present and future generation. It is useful to members of legal fraternity as well as to general members. So we feel that there is need for this court to look into the issue of halting of project and reason therefor.”
The bench directed the registry to list this case as suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) and place the necessary papers before the bench presided over by the Chief Justice taking up the PILs for further consideration.