Maharaj controversy: Gujarat High Court allows ‘Maharaj’ to release on OTT, know what is the controversy?

On Friday, the Gujarat High Court granted permission for the release of the controversial movie ‘Maharaj’ on the OTT platform Netflix.

Maharaj controversy: On Friday, the Gujarat High Court granted permission for the release of the controversial movie ‘Maharaj’ on the OTT platform Netflix. This marks the debut film of Junaid Khan, the son of Bollywood star Aamir Khan.

The court has revoked the temporary ban on the release of ‘Maharaj’ and stated that the movie is not offensive and does not appear to target the Pushti Marg sect.

Previously, the film featuring Junaid Khan, son of actor Aamir Khan, was set to launch on Netflix on June 18.

What is the controversy?
The movie is centered around a defamation lawsuit from 1862, which revolves around Karsandas Mulji, a Vaishnavite religious leader and social reformer. The defamation case from 1862 stemmed from an article penned by Mulji in a Gujarati weekly, where he alleged that a Vaishnavite leader engaged in inappropriate relationships with his female devotees.

Mulji, who was a journalist and prominent advocate for women’s rights and social reform, was involved in the case.

As per PTI, some members of the Pushtimarg sect had submitted a petition against its distribution on Netflix, citing that the film has offended religious sentiments.

The individuals who filed the petition also pointed out that the 1862 case, which was ruled upon by English judges of the Supreme Court of Bombay, included “highly offensive remarks about Hinduism, Lord Krishna, and devotional songs and hymns,” as per Bar and Bench’s report.

It was further claimed that the movie’s launch was being conducted secretly, with no trailer or promotional events. Allegations suggested that this was to conceal the story of the film.

The petitioners mentioned that despite making urgent appeals to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to halt the movie’s release, they did not receive any response.

During the hearing on Thursday, June 20, Mihir Joshi, representing the petitioners, contended that Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to freedom of expression, should not be interpreted as a “blank check for insult,” and that being based on true events does not automatically protect publishers under the law.

What happened next?
In response to the accusations, Yash Raj Films (YRF), the producer of “Maharaj,” presented the option for the court to preview the film prior to its release in order to determine if it potentially offends the religious sentiments of any community. The judge has not yet made a decision on whether to view the film.

Earlier in June, the high court had ordered an interim stay on the film’s release on OTT platforms.

On Friday, June 21, single judge Justice Sangita Vishen lifted the interim stay after reaching a prima facie conclusion that the film was not intended to hurt the sentiments of any community.

The judge also said that the film has already been certified by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), reported Bar & Bench.

The judge stated in his order that the film Maharaj is believed to be based on the events that led to the defamation case of 1862, and it is not meant to offend any community. The film has been approved by the expert body CBFC after taking into account the applicable guidelines.

(With inputs from agencies)