Gujarat HC Clears Path for Release of ‘Maharaj’ Movie


The Gujarat High Court has lifted its stay on the release of “Maharaj,” the debut film of Junaid, son of Bollywood star Aamir Khan. The court observed that the film does not target the Vaishnav Pushtimarg sect, as alleged by its members.

After watching the film, the court stated that it found nothing objectionable or derogatory in it. Consequently, the court has allowed its release on the streaming platform Netflix. Some members of the Pushtimarg sect had filed a petition against the film, claiming it hurt religious sentiments.

The film revolves around an 1862 libel case involving a conflict between a Vaishnavite religious leader and social reformer Karsandas Mulji. Mulji had alleged in an article that the godman had illicit relationships with his female devotees, leading to a defamation case which the social reformer won.

Nod from the Judge

A single judge Justice Sangeeta Vishen, who had initially stayed the film on June 13, watched it before passing the latest order. She refused to extend the stay requested by the Pushtimarg sect’s lawyer Mihir Joshi and allowed YRF and Netflix to release the movie.

The judge noted that the film has already received certification from the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). She mentioned that upon viewing the film, the court found no elements that would offend the religious sentiments of the petitioners or the sect. The judge emphasized that the film’s core message focuses on social evils and the efforts of social reformer Karasandas Mulji, who hailed from the Vaishnavite community.

Content and Context

The film concludes with a tribute to the Vaishnav community, and it includes the recitation of the devotional verse Govind Stotram. Justice Vishen highlighted that the film is based on a true story from a book published by Saurabh Shah in January 2013.

Addressing the petitioners’ concerns that the film could incite hatred or violence against the Pushtimarg sect, the judge pointed out that no such incidents occurred when the book was published eleven years ago. She dismissed the apprehension that the film disparages any religion, asserting that freedom of expression guaranteed by the Constitution cannot be curtailed.

The court noted that “Maharaj” depicts events leading to the libel case and is not intended to offend the sentiments of the Pushtimarg sect. The film’s certification by CBFC and its approval by an expert body after considering all relevant aspects were also highlighted by the court.


During the hearing, the petitioners’ lawyer argued against the portrayal of the British-era court’s decision in the 1862 case as casting aspersions on Hinduism and making blasphemous comments about Lord Krishna and devotional songs. The petitioners had approached the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, but received no response.

Advocate Joshi contended that Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of speech and expression, does not license insults, and the law does not protect publishers (such as OTT platforms) merely because their content is based on true events.

Representing Netflix, senior lawyer Mukul Rohatgi argued against the petitioners’ plea to revoke the film’s censorship certificate, asserting that such certification is not required for an OTT platform release.

The court was informed that one of the petitioners, a prominent businessman from Ahmedabad, had not taken any action against the book or related material available online. The YRF counsel clarified that the disputed part of the libel case ruling was not included in the film’s screenplay.

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About the Author: Nunnem Gangte