Theatre of Katjuhttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/theatre-of-katju/

Theatre of Katju

Press Council chairman now threatens to get an elected govt sacked. Surely,he isn’t serious

Press Council chairman now threatens to get an elected govt sacked. Surely,he isn’t serious

Press Council of India chairman Justice Markandey Katju takes his job very,very seriously. He wrote two letters to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan asking him to address the persistent attacks on journalists in the state,including “the most shocking” murder of J. Dey,but received no response. And so,in his latest letter,instead of quoting Ghalib or Zola,he asked the CM “why I should not recommend to the President to dismiss your state government under Article 356 of the Constitution” for failing to uphold the freedom of the press. Justice Katju is well aware of his powers. Maybe he has read something in the landmark 1994 S.R. Bommai ruling (on Article 356) that lesser mortals haven’t,something that empowers the Press Council chairman to “recommend” — recommend,not just ask for — the sacking of an elected government.

In the months he has been PCI chairman,Katju has given voice to a variety of sweeping opinions: on the stupidity of journalists (we agree with him on this),on who should get the Bharat Ratna,on how Dev Anand’s death didn’t deserve the front page. Or how Salman Rushdie is an overrated writer. This is,of course,of a piece with his judicial career — many of his excellent,progressive judgments were strewn with overstatements. He has suggested that the corrupt be hung from lamp-posts,that allowing beards could lead to the Talibanisation of the country (later retracted),that women who chose to live in with their partners without getting married were “keeps”.

All this makes Justice Katju a lively commentator although his overflowing personality is not quite at home in his current job as PCI chairman. Meanwhile,good luck to Chavan as he drafts his reply.