Netflix’s ‘Maharaj’ Film Stay Continues: Court Urged to Watch Before Decision, Next Hearing Tomorrow

Gujarat High Court Hearing on Aamir Khan’s Son Junaid Khan’s Film ‘Maharaj’

Today, the Gujarat High Court held a hearing before the bench of Judge Sangeeta Vishen regarding the stay on Aamir Khan’s son Junaid Khan’s film ‘Maharaj’. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi participated online on behalf of Netflix, while senior advocates Zal Unwala and Shalin Mehta were present for Yash Raj Films. The hearing lasted for two and a half hours with arguments presented by both parties. However, due to the court’s time constraints, the hearing was adjourned until tomorrow at 2:30 PM, and the stay on the film remains in effect until then.

Netflix’s Lawyer Argues for Lifting the Interim Stay

Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing Netflix, argued for the lifting of the interim stay on the film, suggesting that the court proceedings could continue afterward. The plaintiff’s petition claims the film is defamatory and hurts religious sentiments. References were made to the Supreme Court’s Phoolan Devi case, where it was stated that the depiction of Phoolan Devi, a bandit queen who was shown being raped multiple times, was a reflection of societal realities. The court had noted that an artist portrays society as it is. Rohatgi also cited judgments related to the films ‘Kai Po Che’ and ‘Padmaavat’.

CBFC Certificate Not Required for OTT: Yash Raj Films’ Lawyer

The lawyer for Yash Raj Films argued that a CBFC certificate is not necessary for OTT releases. He stated that the film does not represent the entire judgment and offered to screen the film for the court if desired. The lawyer clarified that the judgment is not read in the film, only the dismissal of the case is shown.

Court Can Grant Stay Based on Application: Plaintiff’s Lawyer

Senior Advocate Mihir Joshi, arguing on behalf of the plaintiff, stated that the court can grant a stay based on the application if it deems necessary. He mentioned that the stay was granted the day before the film’s release, which does not legally affect the situation. Having a CBFC certificate does not necessarily mean the film is legally appropriate. Furthermore, if an OTT release doesn’t require a CBFC certificate, why was one obtained? Pre-censorship cannot restrict freedom of speech. Journalists, society, and political corruption are exposed without such restrictions. The reach of films is much broader than newspapers, which is why there is a censor board for films, but not for news media. The plaintiff argues that despite having a CBFC certificate, the court can still take action. Although edits cannot be made to a film after receiving a CBFC certificate, there are no such rules for OTT. Even the CBFC cannot stop Yash Raj from editing the film on OTT. Thus, there is no regulating authority for OTT content. Authorities have the power to prevent defamation against any religion. They were merely seeking the court’s direction.

Films Have a Wider Reach than Books: Plaintiffs

The plaintiffs argued that the trial is depicted in the film, indicating that the film is indeed based on a trial. The reach of a film is significantly broader than that of a book published in Gujarati. Netflix mentioned that the judgment is based on facts and legal history but could not be based on incorrect principles.

Yash Raj Films Invested Heavily in the Movie

Yash Raj Films’ lawyer stated that the movie is based on a 2013 book, and no issues were raised. They emphasized that significant investment has been made in the film. Delaying the release of the movie is causing daily financial losses. Even if the stay is lifted 10-15 days later, they would still suffer substantial losses.

Repeated Proposal to View the Film in Court

Yash Raj Films’ lawyer stated that the complainant alleges inappropriate content about Shri Krishna and the Pushtimarg in the film. The movie is based on the case of Jadunath Maharaj, who allegedly had physical relations with women. There has been a repeated proposal to view the film in court. Only 20 minutes of the movie depict the court trial. The judgment is defamatory, but it is not shown in the film. The complainant succeeded in obtaining a stay without any evidence presented in the application, aside from public order and law enforcement concerns. The application lacks grounds for the stay beyond defamation of Krishna and Pushtimarg followers. This is not a prima facie case. The complainant lacks material evidence of defamation in the film, and neither the government nor Netflix and Yash Raj Films were approached for representations.

Reference to the Film Gangubai Kathiawadi

Yash Raj Films’ advocate Shalin Mehta cited a 2020 Supreme Court decision, arguing that intolerance cannot suppress art, and social values are reflected in artistic expression. If one does not like a film, cartoon, or music, they are not obliged to watch it. Referring to the film Gangubai Kathiawadi, he noted that the CBFC had certified it despite complaints that it did not accurately portray the story of Gangubai Kathiawadi. The presentation by the artist differs. In the Maharaj case, the complainant did not inform the court that a book was published in 2013. The poster for the Maharaj film was released on May 29, while the title was given on February 29. The complainant approached Netflix and Yash Raj Films on June 11, knowing that the film was scheduled for release on June 14. The complainant was aware of the film from April 15. Some individuals approached the Mumbai Civil Court, which did not grant a stay. Others went to the Delhi High Court. The complainant approached the Gujarat High Court on June 13.

The Complainant Must Prove the Published Content is Fundamentally False

Furthermore, it was stated that the complainant must prove that the published content is fundamentally false. The complainant mentioned that the film’s trailer has not been released, but there is no legal requirement to release a trailer, as it is merely marketing material. It is based on my freedom whether to release the trailer or not. If there are any defamatory aspects, legal options are available after the film’s release. There are no rules governing promotion either.

Judgment Language in Maharaj Case Not Shown to be Defamatory

Shalin Mehta further stated that if the film and book address social issues, it is necessary to raise public awareness. The Maharaj film has been stayed without being viewed, which is inappropriate before its release. If someone feels offended after the release, they can approach the court. It has not been shown that the judgment language in the Maharaj case is defamatory; the facts have been clarified. A Gujarati journalist’s article, “Satyaprakash,” discusses the Maharaj case involving a seven-day trial and examination of 32 witnesses, resulting in the case’s dismissal.

Filmmakers and Tribunals Have Different Perspectives on Films

Yash Raj Films’ advocate argued that previous judgments are being referenced, and submissions regarding internet freedom and freedom of expression have been made. The Indian Constitution mentions freedom of speech, and advertisements for drugs or self-medication should not be permitted. Referring to the American Supreme Court’s judgment, they noted that the newspaper industry derives 60 to 70 percent of its revenue from advertisements. Showing naked men and women in Nazi gas chambers and the depiction of Phoolan Devi was deemed appropriate. Courts are using these judgments to explain why certain scenes need to be shown. Filmmakers and tribunals view films differently than the general public might. Both film and literature are forms of artistic creation, and their characters can be different from everyday people.

The State Cannot Halt Distribution After CBFC Certification

Further, it was argued that the importance of information dissemination and business aspects are being discussed. The state cannot halt distribution after the CBFC certification, as this would violate constitutional rights. Several court judgments related to film laws, such as the Cinematograph Act, highlight the importance of freedom of expression, and the state is bound to uphold constitutional freedom.

The Book is Based on the Judgment, While the Film is Based on Both the Book and the Judgment

Mukul Rohatgi stated that the complainant’s claim of only knowing about the film’s release a few days before filing the petition is false. False affidavits cannot be filed in court. The book is based on the judgment, whereas the film is based on both the book and the judgment. The complainant’s concerns that the film’s release will disrupt public order are unfounded. Nothing has happened in the 150 years since the judgment, so why would it now? The complainant mentioned the IT Act and blamed the authorities for not blocking the film.

The Film Received CBFC Certification on May 29, 2023

Mukul Rohatgi further stated that IPC Sections 295A and 499 would apply, requiring a claim to be filed, not a writ in the High Court. The complainant claims that the relevant department of the Indian government failed to impose a ban on this film. On June 12, the complainant made a representation to the government department, and on June 13, filed a petition in the High Court. How could the relevant authority act in less than 24 hours? This film received CBFC certification on May 29, 2023, which was over a year ago.

CBFC Approval is Not Required for OTT Platforms

Mukul Rohatgi also mentioned that there was no need for such an urgent application. Moreover, CBFC approval is not required for OTT platforms; the Cinematograph Act applies to films shown in theaters. The complainant’s demands are also inappropriate. The film is based on an 1862 Indian court judgment, nearly 170 years old. This film is based on a book by Gujarati author Saurabh Shah, published in 2013. The complainant is a prominent businessman in Ahmedabad who would have known about the 1862 judgment and the book, yet did nothing until now.

The Complainant Did Not Provide Us with an Advance Copy of the Petition

Mukul Rohatgi further stated that content related to the film’s subject is available on the internet. The complainant did not provide us with an advance copy of the petition. Making a film is no small feat; it involves significant financial and labor investments. We have lost a lot due to the stay on the film set to release on Friday.

Mention of the Internet Ban Case in Jammu and Kashmir

Mukul Rohatgi also mentioned that the advance copy of the petition was not provided. The complainant knew about the film’s release. The complainants have not made any representations anywhere. A representation was made by a trust. The complainant did not come to court with clear intentions. The issue of freedom of speech in film and newspapers was raised. The Supreme Court’s judgment on Tata’s yellow pages was mentioned, extending freedom to the internet. The internet ban case in Jammu and Kashmir was also referenced.

The Book Describes the Exploitation of Female Devotees

Mukul Rohatgi further stated that the film is based on the 1862 Bombay High Court case judgment. The book by Saurabh Shah, written by a journalist, describes the exploitation of female devotees by the Maharaj. The Maharaj had filed a defamation claim against this journalist, which was dismissed. This case is an Indian court case, even though it had a British judge. The complainant argues that the judgment insults some verses and Lord Krishna, but legal history cannot be changed because of this. British judges have also sentenced many revolutionaries to death, and films have been made about this history regardless.

Mukul Rohatgi mentioned that films are made on fiction, which is about legal history. The CBFC has a statutory tribunal, and the film was given a certificate by the CBFC on May 23, 2023. Until then, nothing had been done by anyone. Viacom 18, filmmaker Prakash Jha, mentioned Ramesh’s case. Mention has been made of the Supreme Court’s full-blown case.

What was the Maharaja liable case?

“The Maharaja liable case” means “an unprecedented bad case created from imperfections in the Vallabh Sampradaya.” Journalism and law students are specially read. Raghavendra’s teachings are used and with adulterous with have, case voice and Thus the 1860, did.

Rasesh Nageshwar

Hi there! I'm Rasesh Nageshwar, and I'm passionate to write about entertainment, movies, web series, and sports. As a writer, I love sharing my insights and opinions on the latest trends, news, and events in these exciting fields.