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Netflix Stands Firm in 'Maharaj' Film Release Dispute: Legal History on Trial

Thursday, June 20, 2024 • Hindi Comments
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Arguing against petitions trying to stop its release, Netflix defended its movie "Maharaj'' before the Gujarat High Court. Senior attorney Mukul Rohatgi underlined that presenting historical court rulings—even from colonial times—is crucial for maintaining legal history and refuting claims that the 1962 Bombay Supreme Court verdict should be suppressed because of alleged slander of the Pustimargi sect.

The film revolves on the historic Maharaj Libel Case of 1862, in which writer Karsandas Mulji revealed sexual abuse by a strong Maharaj, sparking legal conflict with Vaishnavite leader Jadunathji. Following petitions by Pustimargi sect members, the court had first postponed the distribution of the film on June 13; Netflix and Yash Raj Films (YRF) appealed on June 15.

Drawing on the Supreme Court's 2018 'Padmaavat' ruling, which maintained the film's release despite controversy, Rohatgi contended that the petition should have been submitted as a suit rather than a writ. Shalin Mehta, YRF's attorney, stressed that, spanning a brief 20-minute section in the 132-minute film, 'Maharaj' mostly concentrates on the trial, not the decision itself.

Petitioners argued that the film's wider audience presented more risk than a book on the same subject as 'Maharaj' portrayed things quite differently from earlier works. Emphasizing the possible influence of the movie on public opinion, Mihir Joshi, representing the petitioners, contested Netflix's defense on historical immunity from defamation.

Currently debating the issue, the high court is weighing arguments from both sides on freedom of expression and how historical events are portrayed in movies.

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