Petitioners who stalled ‘Maharaj’ should deposit ₹100 cr: Yash Raj Films in HC | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Petitioners who stalled ‘Maharaj’ should deposit 100 cr: Yash Raj Films in HC

Jun 21, 2024 03:23 PM IST

Justice Sangeeta K Vishen watched the movie, Maharaj, before resuming the arguments on the petitions which sought an injunction against its release on Netflix

AHMEDABAD: Yash Raj Films, the production company that made ‘Maharaj’, told the Gujarat high court on Friday that it would seek damages from the petitioners who approached the court to block the movie if the court finds the film unobjectionable.

The film Maharaj is based on a landmark libel case of 1862 that was filed by a leading Vaishnavite figure, Jadunathji, against journalist and social reformer Karsandas Mulji
The film Maharaj is based on a landmark libel case of 1862 that was filed by a leading Vaishnavite figure, Jadunathji, against journalist and social reformer Karsandas Mulji

Justice Sangeeta K Vishen, who is hearing a bunch of petitions against the movie starring Junaid Khan and Jaideep Ahlawat in the lead roles, announced on June 19 that she will watch the film before resuming the hearing. The court is expected to decide whether to admit the petition or dismiss it later on Friday.

At a hearing on Friday, senior lawyer Shalin Mehta, appearing for Yash Raj Films, said the petitioners must deposit 100 crore once the court delivers its ruling. “There are only two options – if the court concludes that the film fails the test of art as laid down by the Supreme Court, the injunction may continue… if the court finds there is nothing wrong with the movie, then they must deposit 100 crore to the court and we can give calculations (of the losses incurred,” Mehta said.

The film Maharaj is based on a landmark libel case of 1862 that was filed by a leading Vaishnavite figure, Jadunathji, against journalist and social reformer Karsandas Mulji. While the case, filed in the Bombay HC is real, the film is based on 2013 novel about the case, written by the bestselling Gujarati writer Saurabh Shah.

The petitioners, including members of the Pustimargi sect, have sought a ruling to permanently stop the release of the movie on the assumption that it showed the Vaishnav sect in bad light and was likely to “incite feelings of hatred and violence” against the sect. The petitioners alleged that the movie, based on the ‘Maharaj libel case of 1862’, could affect public order and hurt religious sentiments with its reportedly controversial depiction of certain characters and practices.

Senior counsel Mihir Joshi, representing the petitioners, urged the court to adopt a specific test to evaluate the film.

“Now that it has been viewed by the court, the test is whether artistic merit or social value of this expression by way of movie overweighs the offending character of the movie or the scene,” Joshi told the court. He defined “offending character” as elements that contravene in Articles 19(2) (restrictions on freedom of speech and expression), Article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty), and Article 25 (freedom of conscience and free profession, practice, and propagation of religion) of the Indian Constitution.

Joshi contended that while streaming giant Netflix and Yash Raj Films claimed the film was based on true events, the interpretation of religious scriptures should be scrutinised for its truthfulness and potential to offend.

Netflix’s lawyer Jan Unwalla argued that the film was based on the 2013 Gujarati book by Saurabh Shah, which recounts the true events of a trial. The lawyer noted that this book has been in the public domain for years without any untoward incident and that the book’s existence and content were well-known and unchallenged.

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