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Issue No.: 550 | April 2013
 

A Travesty of Justice!

H. R. Bapu Satyanarayana
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"Katju has reinforced the corrupt patronage system”
- Firstpost Editor, R. Jagannathan
All the Perfumes of Arabia

My interest was provoked after reading an article in The Hindu dated February 15, 2013, wherein under the title, ‘All the perfumes of Arabia’, the Chairman of the Press Council of India, Mr. Markandey Katju has expressed his strong views against Mr. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister of Gujarat, whose name is making the rounds as the prime-ministerial candidate for the 2014 elections. Justice Katju’s arguments follow the now familiar pattern that rests on two issues; firstly referring to the aftermath of incidents of Godhra in February 2002 and secondly on the Gujarat’s development model. He dwells in some detail on the attack on Muslims, which in effect conveys an extremely negative impression of his unsuitability for the post of future Prime Minister. Justice Katju qualifies, with colourful expressions, that all the perfumes of Arabia cannot wash away the stain on Modi and adds that he certainly does not buy the story that Modi had no hand in the events of 2002. 

Had Justice Katju confined his comments to these two issues it would probably not have created such a furore as this has been the running theme of the so called ‘secularists’ with the Congress spokespersons in the vanguard and people are getting tired of it. However, Justice Katju appears to have reached a new high when he says, I quote, "To call the killings of Muslims in 2002 a spontaneous reaction reminds one of Kristallnacht in Germany in November 1938 when the entire Jewish community in Germany was attacked, many killed, their synagogues burnt, shops vandalized after a German diplomat in Paris was shot dead by Jewish youth whose family was persecuted by the Nazis. It was claimed by the Nazis government that this was only a ‘spontaneous’ reaction, but in fact it was planned and executed by the Nazi authorities using fanatic mobs.” Katju concludes, "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 that the Germans made in 1933.” The import of what he says in the end leaves little room as an unvarnished political propaganda against Modi.

The Congress may have become wiser after Ms. Sonia Gandhi called Modi the mauth ka Saudagar in the previous Assembly election when they suffered electoral reverses. The party will be mightily pleased that Justice Katju, short of comparing Modi to Hitler, has conveyed the same message. This is an undisguised statement not only to paint Modi in lurid colours in line with the Congress and their spokespersons have been indulging since a decade but also constitutes a propaganda exhorting people to shun Modi. Probably the statement coming from any other person other than Justice Katju, might not have created such a furore since he holds a very responsible position.

War of Words between Justice Katju and Jaitley

Understandably, the leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mr. Arun Jaitley, who belongs to theBJP, reacted sharply and called for the resignation of Mr. Katju as the chairperson of PCI. His reaction appeared in The Hindu on February 12, 2013, under the heading ‘Katju appears to be more Congress than the Congress’ He further says that Justice Katju is "extraordinarily soft on those who provided him a post-retirement job” and exercises ‘selfcensorship’ on issues related to the UPA’s corruption from the 2G spectrum to the coal block allocation. He dwells at length on Justice Katju’s failure on every test on which a judge, whether sitting or retired, could be judged and the choice of his subjects and targets appear to be motivated by his political preferences. This has drawn a sharp repartee from Justice Katju who says, "Arun Jaitley is talking rubbish and he must take ‘sanyas’ from politics because he is not cut out for it. He is twisting facts. I have criticized Congress-ruled States as well. I sent noticesto the Maharashtra government when two girls were arrested for their post on Facebook.”

It is in this context that the observation by FirstPost Editor, R. Jagannathan’s, in his article "Katju has reinforced the corrupt patronage system” assumes relevance to judge where the truth lies1. Jagannathan says that in the slanging match between Jaitley and Justice Katju, truth seems to have been the casualty. According to him, "one simple fact has been lost sight of: The systemic element of patronage that supports the entire edifice of corruption in India;” that instead of fighting corruption, Justice Katju has chosen to reinforce the system. The First Post editor avers that the perception of Justice Katju about Narendra Modi is not the important issue; what is important is the fact that his appointment as Chairman of the Press Council immediately after his retirement as Supreme Court judge has strengthened a vital pillar of political patronage in our corrupt system.

Justice Katju says that Jaitley has twisted his statement. Jagannathan says that Jaitley must realize that if Justice Katju was really interested in safeguarding values he would have refused to accept the nomination. Therefore, there was no possibility of Justice Katju’s conscience being hurt by Jaitley’s comments. Justice Katju not only accepted the job but also asked for more powers to control the media by which he demonstrated his unwritten pact with the Congress-led UPA government.

He cites a news item published by The Indian Express, according to which from 2008 onwards, out of 21 retired judges, 18 have been appointed to financially rewarding positions. He quotes the example of how a judgment was delivered just before retirement by a judge of the Supreme Court to facilitate the judges’  appointment as information commissioners at the centre and in the States. He says that if you review the instances of appointment after retirement to positions of power and profit one cannot escape viewing it with suspicion. He avers that this also applies to the case of Justice Katju, who was appointed as the chairperson of Press Council of India within 15 days of his retirement on September 20, 2011. To prevent such systemic aberration he suggests that officers and judges should not be appointed to new office until after a lapse of two years of their retirement. In fact, he goes on to question whether it is at all necessary to appoint retired judges or is it that other deserving persons are not available in the country. He says that this applies not only to judges, but also equally to those officers who are in a close relationship with politicians. In such a situation, how can good governance be expected? He again refers to an article published in The Indian Express according to which countless retired IAS and IPS officers, whose number is legion, are appointed to positions of profit without much responsibility. He gives statistics to show how the system has been perverted and in fact, positions have been created to accommodate such retired officers.

Judiciary’s Assault on Democracy

Mr. A. G. Noorani, a Supreme Court advocate, in an article in The Hindu on January 12, 2013, has referred to the recent judgment delivered on September 13, 2012 by a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justice Swatantar Kumar and Justice A. K. Patnaik calling for complete overhaul of the system of the Central Information Commissions and State Information Commissions. He characterizes the ruling as a wanton and reckless assault on parliamentary democracy without realizing its graver and long-term consequences. Fortunately, it could not be followed-up as proceedings of its review had to be halted because its author, Justice Swatantar Kumar, retired and was immediately appointed as the Chairman of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) but not before delivering intemperate comments during the review proceedings.

It is pertinent to point out that another bench, comprising Justices G. S. Singhvi and S. J. Mokhopdhya, remarked that appointments to tribunals including the NGT had "raised serious issues relating to the integrity of judges” and that ‘there is a competition among the judges to get those appointments”. This only shows that if today there is still a semblance of justice prevailing and people continue to repose confidence in the judiciary, the country owes its gratitude to a few judges who adhere to certain ethics of their profession. The tragedy is that their numbers are fast dwindling. It is clear that various Commissions presided over by judges have served little practical value. 

The conclusion is obvious that these Commissions have served little purpose and a waste of taxpayers’ money. How successfully the judges of the Supreme Court have conducted themselves on the Press Council of India becomes clear from the fact that at least six CJIs left office in the last quarter century under a cloud points out Noorani. Apart from the war of words exchanged between Justice Katju and Arun Jaitley the former has also been credited with saying that 90 percent of Indians were idiots! Wonder whether Justice Katju will join the tribe of six referred to above.

H. R. BAPU SATYANARAYANA,  freelance writer and political Commentator, Mysore.  
what_option@yahoo.co.in

1  For the full text http://www.firstpost.com/breaking%20views/katju-has-reinforced-the-corrupt-patronage-system-630605.html
 
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