Gujarat HC to watch 'Maharaj' movie to decide if it is defamatory or not

The petitioners have said that the judgement of the British judges contains 'scandalous and defamatory language' against the Pustimargi sect as a whole.
Last Updated : 19 June 2024, 16:26 IST

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Ahmedabad: A single bench of Gujarat high court on Wednesday said it will watch the movie Maharaj before deciding whether it should be released on the OTT platform Netflix or not. The court's decision came following suggestions by Netflix and the film's producer, Yashraj Films. The interim stay on the release of the movie starring Junaid Khan, son of Aamir Khan, will continue for now.

The court's decision came while hearing a petition moved by a set of followers of Vaishnavite Pustimargi sect, who claim themselves to be the devotees of Lord Krishna. The petitioners, aged 59 to 74 years, are all residents of Ahmedabad. They approached the court against the release of the movie said to be based on the controversial 'Libel Case of 1862', conducted by British judges.

The counsels for Netflix and Yashraj Films suggested that the court should watch the movie and decide the matter based on the merits of the case as well. The petitioners' counsel responded that they didn't have any objection and only wanted to ensure that the movie doesn't denigrate the sect or hurt religious feelings. After hearing the arguments and suggestions, justice Sangeeta Vishen agreed to watch the movie and posted the matter for further hearing on Thursday.

The 'Libel Case of 1862' is related to a case filed by religious leader Jadunathji Brijratanji Maharaj against a journalist and social reformer Karsandas Mulji for publishing an article in a newspaper in Mumbai (then Bombay). The article alleged "immoral practices of Jadunathji with the females of his sect." The British judges passed the judgement in favour of Mulji while also expressing their opinion on "general practices of Maharajas" of the sect.

The petitioners have said that the judgement of the British judges contains 'scandalous and defamatory language' against the Pustimargi sect as a whole. They have said that "judgement was based on interpretation of Sanskrit verses after recording that the same is a dead language."

The judgement recorded, according to the petitioners, that "the Maharajas i.e Acharyas of the sect undertake immoral practices. It also interpreted the devotional songs of Lord Krishna as being of amorous character and having a corrupting and licentious tendency where the subject of sexual intercourse is most prominent."

The petitioners have said that the release of the movie ""is likely to incite feelings of hatred and violence against the Pustimargi sect which, would be in breach of code of ethics under the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021 (hereinafter referred to as the ‘Rules of 2021’) and the Selfregulation Code of Over the Top Technology (OTT).

Earlier on Tuesday, appearing for Netflix senior counsel Mukul Rohagti opposed the petition stating, "We can't eradicate legal history whether we like the judgement or not. Picturisation of facts of legal history can't be restrained."

Published 19 June 2024, 16:26 IST

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