All eyes and ears

Justice Katju, chairman Press Council of India, proved to be the most active public speaker of the year 2012

December 31, 2012 09:22 am | Updated 09:29 am IST

Candid: Justice Markandey Katju. Photo: Ranjeet Kumar

Candid: Justice Markandey Katju. Photo: Ranjeet Kumar

If a poll is conducted on the most active public speaker of the year, the name of Justice Markandey Katju will undoubtedly emerge on top. Ever since he took over the reins of the Press Council of India in October 2011, Justice Markandey Katju has been voluble on all things public in the country.

From defending Indo-Canadian porn star Sunny Leone to criticising author Salman Rushdie’s writing skills, the former Supreme Court judge has had some advice to give on everything this past year.

In January, Justice Katju jumped into the fray of the debate over Leone’s appearance in the television reality show Big Boss. Stating that Indians were “broadminded and liberal people”, Katju said that since the porn star had not broken any laws in America, her past should not be held against her, “and we should not treat her as a social outcast” if her behaviour in India is “socially acceptable”.

Soon after, Katju criticised the admirers of Salman Rushdie, saying that they suffered from “colonial inferiority complex” which makes them think that a writer living abroad has to be great. He further called him a “poor” and “sub-standard writer” who would have remained largely unknown but for his controversial book ‘Satanic Verses’. He spoke in favour of press freedom in Maharashtra where he slammed Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan over attacks on journalists in the State, and in Bihar, speaking at the Patna University, he said that there is no freedom of press in Bihar and anyone against the state government is targeted. In Karnataka too, he defended journalists who reported the porn-gate scandal and wrote to the Karnataka Assembly Speaker urging him that proceedings initiated against media persons be dropped.

"Some MLAs of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly were filmed watching porn in the Assembly. Instead of commending the media persons for their professionalism, proceedings have been started against them," he said.

He also hammered against Congress leader Virbhadra Singh after he threatened to break cameras of media persons, by saying that such increasingly intolerant behaviour by politicians against journalists was unacceptable in a democracy.

At the same time, he has spoken for regulation of both the offline and social media. In a letter to the then Communications and Information Technology minister Kapil Sibal, he said that a panel should be immediately set up "so that the social media can be regulated and suitable legislation be initiated…"Unless this is done irreparable damage may be done to individuals or to society, as the material shown may be inflammatory or defamatory or otherwise harmful to people," he added. Other people facing his ire were West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee whom he called "intolerant and whimsical" and Anna Hazare whom he called an honest person with unscientific ideas. Even sports icon Sachin Tendulkar got a taste of his whip when he said that cricketers like him should not be honoured with the Bharat Ratna as the demand to give the award to film stars and cricket players spoke of 'the low cultural level' of a country. Finally, his comment that 90 per cent of Indians are idiots sparked a furore with two students dispatching a legal notice to him.

Here’s to his equally vociferous views in 2013.

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