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Delhi HC notice on plea on Akademi awards

New Delhi : The Delhi High Court on Wednesday issued notice to the central government and Sahitya Akademi on a plea against the return of Sahitya Akademi awards by writers.

A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Jayant Nath sought responses from the ministry of tourism and culture and the Sahitya Akademi by February 15.

The public interest litigation was filed by senior lawyer Haji Mohammad Majid Qureshi, seeking directions to the government to frame guidelines on return of awards.

The petitioner urged the government to ensure that in case awardees returned their awards for political reasons, they should return not only the prize money with interest but also royalties they may have earned through the sale of their prize-winning books or other works.

The present system whereby writers are allowed to retain the royalties earned by them through the sale of their books despite returning the award was “arbitrary and illogical”, he said.

The central government’s counsel told the court that the government had been requesting the awardees to take their awards back.

“We are very sad they are returning the awards. We are requesting them to come and take their awards back. We will not encash the cheques. We respect these people,” said the counsel.

The plea said the public gives a lot of weightage to authors’ actions and statements and thus they were expected to become more responsible in their conduct.

“Since Sahitya Akademi award is a national honour, the sanctity of the same ought to be protected in the same manner as the sanctity of any of our national symbols, including the national flag and national emblem,” the plea said.

The actions of the authors were “shameful and deplorable”, the petitioner said.

Nearly three dozen writers and others have since early September returned their awards in protest against what they say was “growing intolerance” in the country.