The Bombay High Court on Thursday criticised the media for reporting that it had asked Bhima Koregaon case-accused Vernon Gonsalves to explain why he possessed “objectionable material” such as 19th-century classic War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy, Bar and Bench reported.

Justice Sarang Kotwal, who was said to have made the comment during proceedings on Wednesday, said he knew War and Peace was a classic and that his comment was not referring to Tolstoy’s book, PTI reported.

“I was reading the list of all books and CDs seized, and even then, didn’t mean that all material was incriminating,” he said. “It was written in such poor handwriting. I know War and Peace. I was making a query on the entire list that police has mentioned [as evidence].”

The judge said “what was reported was disturbing”, Live Law reported. “Other materials were referred to, I never turned to War and Peace,” he added. “What kind of irresponsible reporting is this? The damage has been done.”

Senior counsel Yug Chaudhary, who is representing co-accused Sudha Bharadwaj, said the War and Peace the court had referred to was a collection of essays titled War and Peace in Junglemahal: People, State and Maoists. The book was edited by Kolkata-based journalist Biswajit Roy.

Reports of the judge’s alleged comments had caused a furore on social media, with even Congress leader and former minister Jairam Ramesh commenting on it. The proceedings on Thursday continued after Chaudhary and Gonsalves’ counsel Mihir Desai concurred with the court’s remarks, according to Bar and Bench.

The court is hearing the bail pleas of activists Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Arun Ferreira since Tuesday. They were arrested in August 2018 in connection with the violence at Bhima Koregaon near Pune on January 1 that year. The police have alleged that the accused organised the Elgaar Parishad event to mark the 200th year of the battle of Bhima Koregaon on December 31, 2017, a day before clashes erupted in the village between Dalits and Marathas.

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