Novelist Chetan Bhagat has said he is willing to change the setting of his latest book “Half Girlfriend”, which is based in Dumraon, in the wake of a Rs 1 crore defamation suit slapped on him by a scion of the erstwhile princely state in Bihar.
The author's lawyer told the Delhi high court on Friday that Bhagat had already changed the book’s setting from Dumraon to a fictional place called Simraon in the Hindi version of the novel. The counsel said Bhagat was willing to make a similar change in the English and Gujarati versions.
The lawyer further said Bhagat will change objectionable words allegedly used in the novel that portrayed the royal family of Dumraon as alcoholics and gamblers.
Bhagat’s counsel submission was opposed by the lawyer of Chandra Vijay Singh, the eldest son of Maharaja Bahadur Kamal Singh, the last ruler of Dumraon. Singh’s lawyer sought a permanent injunction restraining Bhagat, Rupa Publications and others from further publication, sale and circulation of “Half Girlfriend” in its current form.
Singh's counsel said the novel was first published in October 2014 and many copies have been sold since then.
Singh filed the suit in the high court within days of Bhagat changing the setting in the Hindi version of “Half Girlfriend”. The suit alleged that "express and implied references" which were "false and derogatory in nature" were made against Singh’s family in the novel.
The court had on April 13 sought responses from the author and Rupa Publication. Bhagat’s oral submission came in the wake of the court's direction.
Maharaja Bahadur Kamal Singh was a two-term Lok Sabha MP and the last ruler of Dumraon before its accession to the Indian union in 1952.
Singh’s petition said the Dumraon royals would accept nothing short of a full retraction of the novel in English and an apology from Bhagat and the publishers. It further said the author had been given every chance to make amends and to repair the damage caused to the royal family's reputation but he had not taken the family's concerns seriously.
The erstwhile princely state of Dumraon, located 100 km west of Patna, was founded by a branch of Ujjainia rulers and the reign of the first king, Raja Bhoj Singh, is traced back to 1018.