A dispute between novelist Chetan Bhagat and a royal family of Bihar over alleged depiction of the princely state of Dumraon in poor light and use of objectionable words in his novel “Half Girlfriend” has been settled in a Delhi court after the writer offered an apology saying the work was based on “fiction”.
A descendant of the royal family who had sought Rs 1 crore as damages from Bhagat and others besides a ban on further sale of the novel in its present form, agreed to put an end to the lawsuit when the novelist told the court that the depiction of the royals was based on “fiction” and was “imaginary” and “unintentional”.
“I apologise to anyone if hurt by the said fictional representation of the assumed royal family in the novel,” Bhagat, whose work has also led to the making of a Bollywood flick with the same name starring Arjun Kapoor, told Additional District Judge Harish Kumar said.
“In view of the statement given by the counsel for the parties, present matter is disposed of as settled in accordance with the terms recorded particularly in the statement of counsel for defendant (Bhagat),” the court said.
The court noted that it has been agreed that Bhagat, who will also publish a disclaimer on the issue in future editions of the novel, shall carry out the publication of his clarification in newspapers by June 15.
The court recorded separate statements of the counsel for plaintiff Chandra Vijay Singh, son of Maharaja Bahadur Kamal Singh and defendant Bhagat and disposed of the suit.
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Chandra Vijay, who filed the civil suit through advocate Avneesh Garg, had sought a permanent injunction restraining the author, Rupa Publications and all others from further publication, sale and circulation of “Half Girlfriend” in its present form “with immediate effect”.
Garg has said the novel was first published in October 2014 and since then many copies have been sold. Chandra Vijay, a descendant of the erstwhile princely state of Dumraon in Bihar, had earlier filed the suit in the Delhi High Court seeking Rs 1 crore as damages from Bhagat.
The suit was last year transferred to the trial court after the pecuniary jurisdiction of Delhi district courts was raised from Rs 20 lakh to Rs 2 crore. It alleged that “express and implied references” that were “false and derogatory in nature” were made against Chandra Vijay’s family in Bhagat’s book.
Vijay is the eldest son of Maharaja Bahadur Kamal Singh, a two-term Lok Sabha MP and the last ruler of Dumraon before its accession to the Indian union in 1952. The suit said the Dumraon royals were firm that they will not accept anything short of a full retraction of the original novel in English and an apology from Bhagat and the publishers.
In his reply to the legal notice dated November 25, 2014, Bhagat expressed regret and offered his lifelong friendship to the family, the suit has said. Bhagat has agreed to publish the clarification that the lead character in his novel, Madhav Jha, is stated to be a descendant of the royal family of Dumraon, which is not true.
“While describing this fictional royal family of Jhas, the reference made to the royal family of Dumraon is inadvertent,” Bhagat has said in the clarification given in the court. The writer has agreed to publish the clarification that, “As per record, the royal family of Dumraon had ruled Dumraon since 1018 and the rule was formally handed over by the last ruler, Maharaja Bahadur Kamal Singh in June, 1952. Kamal Singh continues to reside in Dumraon with his son Chandra Vijay Singh and grandson Shivang Vijay Singh.”
“The erstwhile royal family is respected for their consistent efforts for development in Dumraon, contribution to healthcare and education and continue to lead the people in independent India,” it said. Bhagat has said it has been passingly mentioned that the ancestors of the lead character were involved in gambling and alcoholism, leading to bankruptcy due to which the women of the family took charge of affairs and managed the family.
“I clarify that the aforesaid depiction of the royal family of Dumraon was completely based on fiction, is imaginary, unintentional and has no factual basis. I apologise to anyone if hurt by the said fictional representation of the assumed royal family in the novel,” he said.
The erstwhile princely state of Dumraon, located 100 km west of Patna, was founded by a branch of Ujjainia rulers and the reign of the first king, Raja Bhoj Singh, is traced back to 1018.