HomeEntertainmentTelevisionGujarat High Court Stops ‘Maharaj,’ A Netflix Film About A Fearless Journalist

Gujarat High Court Stops ‘Maharaj,’ A Netflix Film About A Fearless Journalist


Gujarat High Court Stops ‘Maharaj,’ A Netflix Film About A Fearless Journalist

AHMEDABAD, (IANS) – In the annals of the country’s legal history, few cases have had as profound an impact as the 1862 Maharaj Libel Case.

This landmark case saw Karsandas Mulji, a fearless journalist and social reformer, take a stand against the powerful religious establishment of the Vallabhacharya sect.

This case is at the center of ‘Maharaj’, the launch film of Junaid Khan, Aamir Khan’s son, whose release by Netflix has been stayed by the Gujarat High Court.

Mulji’s bold accusations of misconduct against Jadunathji Maharaj, a revered spiritual leader, played in the film by Jaideep Ahlawat, sparked a sensational trial that captivated the nation. The spiritual leader was accused of exploiting his female devotees in the guise of religious practices.

Interestingly, when Narendra Modi was Chief Minister of Gujarat, he praised Karsandas Mulji in a blog post, acknowledging his contributions to social reform and the bravery he exhibited during the Maharaj Libel Case.

Modi highlighted Mulji’s dedication to truth and justice, emphasizing how his legacy continues to inspire his efforts towards transparency and accountability in public life.

As Mulji’s investigative journalism exposed the alleged exploitation of female devotees, the ensuing court battle highlighted the crucial role of the press in challenging entrenched power structures and promoting social justice.

This is the story of a journalist’s unwavering commitment to truth and the enduring legacy of a case that redefined the boundaries of religious and journalistic authority in India.

Originally slated for release on Netflix on June 14, the film has faced opposition from followers of the Vaishnavite Pushtimargi sect.

These followers, devotees of Lord Krishna, argue that the film misrepresents their religious practices and disrespects their beliefs. This prompted a petition to the Gujarat High Court, which ordered the temporary stay on the film’s release.

The Maharaj Libel Case of 1862 was a pivotal moment in Indian legal and social history.

Mulji published his accusations in his Gujarati weekly newspaper, ‘Satya Prakash’. Jadunathji Maharaj, in response, filed a libel suit against Mulji and the newspaper’s publisher, Nanabhai Rustomji Ranina.

The trial, in the Supreme Court of Bombay, garnered widespread public and media attention. Starting on January 25, 1862, and concluding on March 4, 1862, the case saw extensive testimonies from various individuals, including missionaries and doctors who corroborated Mulji’s allegations.

The judgment, delivered on April 22, 1862, was a landmark victory for Mulji. The court recognised his role as a journalist in exposing wrongdoing and promoting moral integrity in society. Mulji was ordered to be compensated Rs 11,500 for his legal costs, which amounted to Rs 13,000.

Liberals and reformists across India celebrated the verdict. Mulji was hailed as the “Indian Luther”, after the Protestant reformer Martin Luther, for his courage in challenging corrupt religious practices.

The case underscored the importance of press freedom and the vital role of journalism in social reform. It also led to increased scrutiny of religious figures and practices in India.

In the ongoing controversy, the petitioners argue that the film’s depiction of historical events could incite religious tensions and misinform the public about their beliefs.

The High Court’s decision to stay the film’s release highlights the judiciary’s role in balancing creative expression with societal harmony.

Legal experts have weighed in on the case, noting the complexities involved in adjudicating matters related to artistic freedom and religious sentiments.

“The court must carefully consider the historical context and the filmmakers’ intent while also ensuring that the portrayal does not lead to unrest or communal disharmony,” said lawyer and constitutional expert, Rajeev Dhavan.

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