O God; Forgive Justice Katju

Press Council of India’s Chairman Justice (retired.) Markandey Katju is, undoubtedly, an erudite and scholarly person. He has thorough knowledge of law, literature, philosophy and political science. But he suffers from a serious demerit of hunger for publicity. Apart from it, he is highly unpredictable person and himself does not as know as to what he is speaking and what would be its repercussions.

Judges are known for their reticence. They are supposed to be the biggest practitioners of ‘Look before leap’ policy but this theory never applies to Justice Katju. He mistakenly considers it a quality of outspokenness. He is a pundit of English language and people marvel at his beautiful language that he writes but his love for Hindi is known to everybody, who has seen him on the bench of the Supreme Court. He often made gratuitous comments on lawyers and their way of arguments. Even the government officials attending the court cases were not spared by his acid comments and most of the times it used to be mortifying experience for them.

There are many lawyers who are his bitter critics and they allege that Justice Katju suffers from foot in mouth disease. Some say he was the chronic patient of verbal diarrhea. This is very harsh comment indeed; but one cannot help it from commenting anybody about anybody.

Justice Katju’s comments are, it is said, not malafide or malicious. They hardly bear any ill-will towards anyone. He was unsparing, even bigwigs had also to suffer his unedifying comments. I have seen him passing remarks against famous lawyers like Venugopal, Gopal Subramaniam, Rohinton Nariman, Mukul Rohtagi and A.M. Singhvi etc. But He forms opinions about the persons or cases generally in haste. And if he has made any opinion he expresses it without let or hindrance.

This trait of Justice Katju has often caused incalculable damage even to the very right intents and purposes. This uncalled for habit of his has turned many of his admirers into harsh critics. Why does he do – nobody knows. It must be either a psychological problem or deliberate one — I cannot say.

The day after Justice Katju assumed the charge of the Chairman of the Press Council of India, he made an unsavoury remark about the intelligence of the journalists across the board. On what ground or basis he came to the conclusion that the journalists possess low Intelligence Quotient? He did not elaborate. It must have dawned on him either as an intuition or on the basis of any empirical study. Nothing can be said about intuition but it is certainly not based on any empirical study. Journalists across the country made hullaballoo about his outpouring but he refused to resile. He did not tell about the ground or logic forgetting the basic principles of jurisprudence that any statement without sufficient reason is nothing but the blabbering of a crazy person. It is highly deplorable and unbecoming of a person who has occupied the venerable post of the judge of the Supreme Court of India and even at present holding a very important office of the Chairman of the Press Council of India to have uttered so senselessly. It is really matter of solace that the Press Council of India is a tooth less organisation; otherwise a person like Katju would certainly have wreaked havoc on the freedom of the Press.

One is really amused when one finds that the Chairman of the Press Council has written to ‘so and so’ Chief Minister warning him to behave or protect the freedom of speech or else appropriate action would be initiated. This shows not only his colossus ignorance of the Press Council’s Act but also exposes his bravado inviting ridicule of the general public.

Recently, he made another an obnoxious remark in Bihar and said that there was no Freedom of press in the state. This was an insinuation against the State Government. He has no proof, yet he gave his definitive opinion. Moreover, if the Press or Media was being gagged in Bihar who was responsible for it — this needed an in-depth and comprehensive study. But why should he care for it? His statement, obviously he did not know, would be lapped up by politicians. And those who have throttled the press freedom in the past in the state, would be first to use it as weapon against present government of Bihar. That is exactly what has happened.

But to ask or expect restraint from Justice Katju will hardly have any positive response for he does not know what he speaks.