The Supreme Court on Thursday reserved its order seeking a ban on excerpts of the Malayalam novel Meesha written by S Hareesh. The petitioner has sought a ban on the publication or circulation by internet or propagation of a part of the novel which he alleged was derogatory to women, IANS reported. The state and Central governments have opposed the plea.

The top court asked Malayalam weekly Mathrubhumi to submit a translated copy of the chapter within five days, LiveLaw reported.

“We cannot make a virtue of banning those to ban this,” said Chief Justice Dipak Misra. “Literary work is amenable to criticism.” Misra said the culture of banning books directly influences the flow of ideas.

The novel, which is set in the background of Kerala’s social life nearly 50 years ago, was being published serially in Mathrubhumi. After three chapters were published, Hareesh decided to withdraw the novel on July 21 following threats from Hindutva organisations. The writer and his family members have allegedly been abused on social media. On August 1, DC Books released the novel in a book form.

The petitioner argued that the work portrayed temple-going women obscenely. N Radhakrishnan’s petition alleged that the novel was offensive to Hindu priests and women and that a specific objectionable dialogue about Brahmins amounted to a casteist or racial slur.

After the novel was withdrawn, Hareesh received support from Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, former chief minister and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader VS Achuthanandan, writers M Mukundan, K Satchidanandan, Anita Nair, Unni R and KR Meera.

Hareesh, who works at the state revenue department, won the Kerala Sahitya Academy award in 2016 for his collection of stories titled Aadam. His first collection of stories was titled Rasavidyayude Charithram.