For slamming judges in blogs, SC issues contempt notice to Markandey Katju

Not scared: ex-SC judge to bench that wanted him evicted.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: November 12, 2016 3:02 am
Markandey Katju, supreme court, rape, Markandey Katju rape, Markandey Katju notice, Markandey Katju supreme court, Markandey Katju SC, Markandey Katju contempt notice, Markandey Katju blogs, Soumya, Soumya murder case, Soumya rape murder case, india news On Friday, after listening to Katju for nearly 45 minutes, the bench did not find merit in his arguments and dismissed a clutch of review petitions, seeking reconsideration of its September 15 judgment.

Minutes after he said it is a free country where he has a right to say whatever he likes, the Supreme Court Friday issued suo motu contempt notice to its former judge Markandey Katju — a first in the country’s judicial history — for writing blogs that the court called “an assault on the judges”. At one point, it even called for his eviction from the court room.

“Prima facie, statements attributed to him in the blog seem to be an assault on the judges and not of the judgment,” said a three-judge bench headed by Justice Ranjan Gogoi while issuing a contempt of court notice to Katju, who will now have to put forth his defence before the judges in court room number 6 where he once presided as a judge and passed orders. Katju was a Supreme Court judge between 2006 and 2011.

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Katju was issued a notice by the court last month over blogs in which he was critical of the September 15 judgment that had set aside the death penalty for the convict in Kerala’s Soumya rape-cum-murder case. The bench, also comprising Justices P C Pant and Uday U Lalit, had exonerated Govindachamy of the murder charge but sentenced him to life imprisonment for rape. Later, Katju, in his blogs, questioned the wisdom of the judgment and asserted that the convict was to be held culpable under the murder charge as well.

On Friday, after listening to Katju for nearly 45 minutes, the bench did not find merit in his arguments and dismissed a clutch of review petitions, seeking reconsideration of its September 15 judgment. It then took up Katju’s other two blogs in which he had commented on the judges who had passed the verdict.

On being asked by the bench, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said that Katju’s statements in the blogs relating to the Soumya’s case were “definitely intemperate but not bordering on contempt”.

The bench, however, decided to initiate suo motu contempt proceedings. When it asked him on what he had to say about initiation of contempt, Katju replied loudly: “I am not scared of all this… learn to be modest. I am here because you had requested me to come and assist you. How can you do this now?”

Justice Gogoi asked Katju not to provoke the court but the former judge replied that it was the court which was provoking him. At this, Justice Gogoi called for securitymen: “Is there someone to escort Justice Katju out of court?”

A couple of security officers then moved swiftly towards Katju, who remained defiant: “You cannot do this. Am I treated to be like this when I have come to this court on your request to assist you? Mr Gogoi, don’t threaten me with all this.”

The bench then dictated a short order, issuing a notice of contempt against Katju before the judges walked out of the court room. Some lawyers, who had crammed the court room to witness the first-of-its kind proceedings where a retired judge had been summoned to demonstrate why he had called a court judgment wrong, protested when the bench wanted the former judge to be removed. “No… it’s wrong,” the lawyers said in chorus, asking the security personnel to back off. This situation was, however, averted with the proceedings coming to an end quickly.

The contempt notice was issued after the bench dismissed the petitions against its judgment in 2011 Soumya rape-cum-murder case. The bench had set aside the death penalty awarded to the convict stating it has not been proved that Govindachamy threw the victim, Soumya, out of the a train or inflicted fatal injuries during the sexual assault that led to her death. It had, however, sentenced Govindachamy to life imprisonment on the charge of raping the 23-year-old victim.

On October 17, Katju was issued a notice by the bench, asking him to show up and justify his blog that described the judgment as legally flawed in setting aside the death penalty of the convict.

Katju turned up in a black suit and led arguments for nearly 45 minutes, contending it was a fit case where Govindachamy had to be held culpable under the murder charge for creating a terrible situation that had led to the death of the victim.

He began by saying: “A judge is not born not to commit mistakes. I have also made several mistakes as a judge.” The bench responded: “Please don’t remind us that. We know we are not infallible. You please tell us where have we committed mistakes in this judgment.”

Katju then pointed to several aspects which, in his opinion, were “grave errors” in the judgment and urged the bench to “apply common sense” in convicting Govindachamy under the murder charge. The AG, appearing for Kerala government, also supported Katju’s plea and asked for reconsideration of the judgment.

At one point, when the AG argued that no scientific evidence could be adequate to indicate exactly the degree of culpability of a man, the bench reminded Rohatgi that it cannot shift the burden of proof from the prosecution to the accused.

“Please remember you are arguing in a death case. You are asking us to sentence a man to death when you are yourself not sure of the accuracy of the evidence. We have told we will not sentence a man to death unless we are 100 per cent sure of the guilt,” the bench said.

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First Published on: November 12, 2016 2:59 am
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    bonku
    Nov 12, 2016 at 2:57 am
    Indian judiciary and judges must come out from the British raj mentality and face criticism by general public. Now it should be interesting now. In USA, judges face public criticism at the same rate of politicians. They also need to get elected by general public in lower courts.
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      bonku
      Nov 12, 2016 at 2:57 am
      ndian judiciary and judges must come out from the British raj mentality and face criticism by general public. Now it should be interesting now. In USA, judges face public criticism at the same rate of politicians. They also need to get elected by general public in lower courts.
      Reply
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        pawan
        Nov 12, 2016 at 4:38 am
        SC aka supreme corrupt justices are not beyond critism in any democratic society. SC should be dismantled and replaced by saner justices. Mockery of democracy and wonder are we really a democratic society.
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          Mayur Panghaal
          Nov 12, 2016 at 3:29 am
          As far as I understand....you can criticize the judgement ...but you cant attribute motive to it.So how is it contempt of court ??
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            nagarajabillur
            Nov 12, 2016 at 1:38 am
            Under Indian Consution SC and HC judges are a law unto themselves. Their orders become case laws. They are deemed to be always correct even when they admit they are not infalliable.
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              Ramesh Singh
              Nov 12, 2016 at 4:29 am
              Is that the 'end of reason' ? Asking someone to be escorted out because he disagrees to your point of view, in my mind is the ultimate intolerance to free speech - and that too coming from the highest court of law. I do not agree with the manner Justice Katju says some of the things. I also do not agree with his reasons to award death penalty in the instant case - I believe Supreme Court is perfectly right in not awarding it to the accused. But his freedom of speech and sheer courage to dissent against the top court judgement stands him apart. How many of us are ready to take a stand like that? Let us not go by the sum total of his all utterances. Here, he is representing a doctrine and we all must stand by him.
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                Pmg Pillai
                Nov 12, 2016 at 12:00 am
                Lacking uder standing beteen the hudges and misinterpretion resulting unfuded rhumentsmust avebeen voided in thiscase secnd injury in Siunys hed dispute isunwted otonly hat thejnjurymust haedvepoed further as a resut of any mediie dmiisteed etc hence his wsunwante excise datd satudy November 12th 2016 Time0525hrsist
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                  Raja
                  Nov 12, 2016 at 6:06 am
                  I wheartedly agree with the Supreme Court judges: The onus of proof is on the prosecution, not on the accused. Let everybody know that a death sentence is an extremely serious proposition that requires an evidence against the accused that is beyond the shadow of a doubt. While Justice Katju (Retd.) presents no such evidence, he casts aspersion on the judgment in the Soumya murder case. Therefore, he must be held in contempt of the court. Hats off to the Supreme Court!
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                    rajan luthra
                    Nov 12, 2016 at 2:58 am
                    A new trend has been set by Katju. Judiciary should though be out of the purview of all politicians yet it has to be tolerant towards dissenting voices. When God is not above criticism or questions, judges are just human beings. Contempt of court for criticising them needs review
                    Reply
                    1. S
                      Stephen Stephen
                      Nov 13, 2016 at 2:24 am
                      The court is looking for a scape goat to alleviate their error in not convicting the man of murder.
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                      1. S
                        Sheik Mohamed
                        Nov 12, 2016 at 10:57 am
                        It is a sad part of Apex court's history where a retired judge was asked to be move out through security Guards.
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                          Spoton
                          Nov 12, 2016 at 12:20 pm
                          This episode is but an unfortunate and unambiguous reminder of the deteriorating standards and decorum at the apex court and indirectly raises questions on the merit and wisdom of the people occupying the benches. It is an age-old Indian value-system, custom and tradition to respect elders even if one objects to what they stand for. The bench can be accused to have insulted Justice (Retd) by inviting him to appear personally and then treating him dismissively. On his part, Justice Katju seem to have fallen for the provocation and argued the case like a lawyer against the combined might of their lordships forgetting that he was a retired justice at the apex court and not appearing for the prosecution. If the bench is not satisfied that the case before them did not disclose to be one among the rarest of the cases to deserve death penalty it should have said so instead of relying on no better than a hearsay, which is inadmissible as evidence over admissible evidence to commute death penalty to life imprisonment. In the end both the court and its ex-judge appear to have come out diminished in their respective stature!
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