A court in south India has issued a non-bailable warrant against Indian ODI captain MS Dhoni over a 2013 magazine cover in which his face was super-imposed on to an image of the Lord Vishnu.
The cover, created by Business Today magazine, was meant to convey Dhoni’s multiple business interests and endorsement deals outside cricket. It caused anger among some Hindu groups who blamed Dhoni for “hurting Hindu sentiments”.
Weeks after the magazine hit newsstands, “social activist” Jayakumar Hiremath, filed a case against Dhoni under the Indian Penal Code for “denigrating” a Hindu God.
The court in Anantpur, Andhra Pradesh has now demanded Dhoni appear in court on February 25.
Dhoni, one of India’s most successful cricket captains and a hugely popular figure, had previously said: “I haven’t received any remuneration/goodwill or money for the news article or for usage of my picture on the cover page or anywhere else. Neither have I posed for the picture which was published in the magazine on April 14, 2013.”
In August 2015, the Karnataka High Court, which had taken up the case, observed: “A celebrity and a cricketer like Dhoni should know the consequences of hurting religious sentiments of people. He should have known the consequences of doing such ads.”
In September India’s Supreme Court froze criminal proceedings against Dhoni in the same case where he was alleged to have deliberately hurt religious sentiments by posing as Lord Vishnu.
Dhoni is currently in Australia and will be leading the team in the ODI and T20I series.