The last week witnessed a selective targeting of two popular non-Congress state governments and its leaders by Justice Markandey Katju, a retired judge of the Supreme Court, presently the Chairperson of the Press Council of India.He released a draft report on behalf of the Press Council of India alleging that media in Bihar was not independent. He followed it up with an article in The Hindu attacking the Gujarat Government and its' Chief Minister Narender Modi.
Though initially known for his scholarship Justice Katju was never a conventional judge. His utterances, both during his tenure as a Judge and thereafter are clearly outlandish. Dignified comment is alien to him. His attacks on non-Congress governments whether in West Bengal, Bihar or Gujarat seem more in the nature of thanks-giving to those who provided him with a post retirement job.
I have held a strong view that Judges of the Supreme Court and the High Courts must not be eligible for jobs in the government after retirement. In some cases the pre-retirement judicial conduct of a judge is influenced by the desire to get a post retirement assignment. However, we are still operating under a system where various tribunals and other quasi-judicial assignments are filled up with retired judges. The Chairman of the Press Council of India has always been a retired judge of the Supreme Court. He deals with issues relating to the freedom of Press, possible encroachment of the said freedom and also hears complaints relating to lack of professionalism in media reporting and comment. The Chairman of the Press Council discharges a statutory job. His job requires fairness, impartiality and political neutrality. Additionally a Judge, whether sitting or retired, is expected to conduct himself with sobriety, dignity and grace. He cannot be loud, crude, outlandish or behave like a megalomaniac. When Judges discharge judicial functions nobody can attribute a motive to them. Even criticism of judgements has to be couched in a language of restraint. Criticism can be academic not personal. It is a fundamental principle in the conduct of Judicial or Quasi Judicial functions a Judge should refrain from involving themselves in political controversies. If he desires to get into a political activity or a political debate, he should cease to hold his Judicial or Quasi-Judicial office. In any case his views are liable for the same level of scrutiny and comment as is applicable to politicians.
Justice Markandey Katju has failed every test on which a Judge whether sitting or retired could be judged. The choice of his subjects and targets is motivated by his political preferences. He is extraordinarily soft on those who provided him a post retirement job. I am yet to read a comment from him which prefers meritocracy over dynasty as an instrument of leadership creation. Obviously,such omments would embarrass those who desire to legitimise India as a Dynastic Democracy The crusader in Justice Katju subjects himself to self-censorship when UPA's corruption from the 2G spectrum allocation to the coal block allocation are to be commented upon. When confronted with favourable comments by large sections of domestic and international community praising the change of polity in Bihar and the emergence of development as the centre stage agenda of politics, Justice Katju chooses to target Nitish Kumar and the Bihar Government for lack of Press freedom.
His recent criticism in a signed article in The Hindu against the Gujarat Chief Minister Narender Modi reads more like a personal tirade. His political bias is clear from the fact that on the burning of the Sabarmati Express in Godhra he writes " There is still a mystery of what happened in Godhra". Is Justice Markandey Katju trying to hold a brief for those who have been convicted for setting the train on fire resulting in the death of innumerable people and injuries to many others. Can a former judge of the Supreme Court presently holding a statutory assignment ignore the fact that the trial court has convicted a large number of accused in the case and their appeals are pending ?
He then comments on the fact that Narender Modi has not been prima facie held liable by any judicial authority. He prefers bazaar gossip over judicial verdicts and observes "I do not want to comment on our judiciary but I certainly do not buy the story that Shri Modi had no hand in 2002." He then continues his tirade against Modi and Gujarat by underplaying the economic development in Gujarat. He observes-" Giving concessions to big industrial houses and offering them cheap land and cheap electricity can hardly be called development if it does not raise the life of the masses."
He then selectively quotes statistics to substantiate his point. Professor Jagdish Bhagwati and Dr. Arvind Panagariya in their recent publications have observed that Gujarat inherited low levels of social indicators at the time of Independence and it is the change in these indicators where Gujarat has shown impressive improvement. The literacy rate has risen from 22 percent in 1951 to 69 percent in 2001 and 79 percent in 2011. The infant mortality rate per 1000 has fallen from 144 in 1971 to 60 in 2001 and 41 in 2011. He looks at Gujarat with a jaundiced eye.
Justice Katju finally concludes his article with a political appeal. He observes "I appeal to the people of India to consider all this if they are really concerned about the nation's future,otherwise they may make the same mistake which the Germans made in 1933".I concede to Justice Katju the right to hold his political views, but can the occupant of a job whose functioning is quasi-judicial openly participate in political activity. His appeal is political. He appears to be more Congress than the Congress party. If a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court participated in politics so openly and issued a political appeal he would be liable for impeachment. If a Civil Servant did the same he would be liable to be dismissed from service. Should not a former judge who currently occupies a quasi judicial office as Chairman of the Press Council of India, either quit before actively participating in politics or be sacked. Retired judges must remember that the rental for occupying a Lutyen's bunglow post retirement has to be political neutrality not political participation.
Just like on Aug 15th 1947, what we need again is a 2nd round of freedom - freedom from the brown Lutyens, including your ilk too not just Mr. Katju's. I firmly believe in the American founding father wisdom of "less government is more likely to be good government" and it is a "necessary evil so best kept to a minimum". We have just too much of you guys irrespective of your shape, shade and dispensation.
Katju and his arrogant twisting of mouth suck. What kind of supreme court judge he must have been.What is he aiming at? Some gubernatorial post after the present assignment. It is alright to say what he wants to say if he is a free citizen but sitting as Chairman of PTI it doesn't behove well on his part to exhibit such open and mindlessly partisan attitude. As an ex Judge if he is like this, was Churchill after all right when he said Indians are incapable of being impartial.
Thanks RSM sahib for the link.
Katju is saying time and again that he has criticised Congress Govts too not only Modi.
Well in case of of his criticism of Congress Govts those were wrt one or other issue for Newspapers and Media complaints .It is his duty to take up those cases being Head of PCI.They were not as to who will be PM or CM or Mr X is bad Politician or good Politician .
Is some hidden Duty assigned to him in his Appointment Letter to say Modi should not be PM ?? I doubt but then why you are going beyond your Constitutional role sir ??
Mr Katju you are straying into political arena which is strictly beyond role of Constitutional Authority.What are the reasons ??? There must be some at least otherwise a man of your knowledge and stature will not go beyond his Constitutional role or just you over did it sir ?? Then atleast don't defend the indefensible now.
You know, I must ask Mr. Jaitley, that if all bungalows of Lutyen's time, and design, and probably of the year that he made them, were unoccupied, they might be seen as heritage buildings, and be seen to be really, well.... . Mr. Katju is a govt. official. The Chief Justice has a Luyten's bungalow. Who might live in these bungalows?
The BJP doesn’t like Katju because Katju was so forthright on Modi. But what has Katju said that is new? He has only repeated the charge that Modi was complicit in the Godhra riots. How can he not be? He was the CM and he should have been able to control the riots in no time, if he really is as efficient as he claims to be. The truth is that Modi is efficient, and Modi efficiently instructed his police force to stay out of the picture for 2-3 days after the riots started. That’s why the mayhem spread. Had the CM acted promptly, he could have restricted the deaths to 10-20-50. Look at what happened in the communal riots in Assam recently. The CM there did not allow his forces to cool their heels. So while much damage was done, the deaths were limited to a relatively modest number (compared to Godhra)
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