THE MAHARAJA LIBEL CASE

THE MAHARAJA LIBEL CASE

Author: PREETA NILESH Write To Author

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THE MAHARAJA LIBEL CASE

Dr. Preeta Nilesh

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THE MAHARAJA LIBEL CASE

 

Dr. Preeta Nilesh

 

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© Dr. Preeta Nilesh 2009

 

The Maharaja Libel Case, which has been referred to as the ‘greatest trial of modern times since the trial of Warren Hastings’, was filed in the Supreme Court of Bombay. This paper looks at the case through the reports in the Oriental Christian Spectator journal. This sensational case was filed by Jadunathji Maharaja, one of the leaders of the Vallabhacharya Sect of the Vaishnava religion on May 14, 1861. The case was against Karsondas Mulji a social reformer and the editor of Satya Prakash, a Gujarati weekly newspaper and Nanabhai Rustomji Raina, the printer of the paper for defaming Jadunathji Maharaja. The trial of the case took place before a full court consisting of Chief Justice Sir Mathew Sausse and Sir Joseph Arnould. The case commenced on 25th January 1862 and went on until 4 March 1862. Thirty-one witnesses were examined for the plaintiff and thirty-three for the defendant. The ruling was in favour of the defendant. The case was well covered in the Oriental Christian Spectator. The Oriental Christian Spectator, (OCS) essentially a Christian journal, is an important source for the socio-cultural history of the nineteenth century. The journal which according to the Bombay Samachar means ‘one beholding the Christians of the East’ was first published in 1830. John Wilson of the Scottish Mission published the OCS which continued until 1863. Wilson himself edited it for a long while and it was undoubtedly an important contemporary journal which commented on the religious and secular aspects of life in Western India, even the rest of India and the world. The July-August issue of the OCS of the year 1862 was entirely devoted to the proceedings of the Libel Case. It was titled “The Maharaja Libel Case” In The Supreme Court Of Bombay – Extraordinary Disclosures. It was considered important by the editor of the OCS to publish the proceedings in this periodical “despite the painful and disgusting disclosures” since one of its specific objectives was the ‘advancement of native improvement and reformation’.   The judgment of the Supreme Court widely attracted attention in India than any other judicial proceedings which have occurred during the long term of British administration in India.

 

DR. PREETA NILESH: Associate Professor of History, Ket’s V.G. Vaze College, (affiliated to the University of Mumbai) Mumbai, India

 

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