Supreme Court issues contempt notice to Katju

Notice issued for his blog, in which he allegedly used intemperate language against judges of the apex court.

Updated - December 02, 2016 02:54 pm IST

Published - November 11, 2016 04:44 pm IST

“Don’t give me threats, Mr. Gogoi. Don’t try to be funny with me,” former Supreme Court judge Justice Markandey Katju shouted on Friday when slapped with a contempt notice in the very courtroom he once held sway as presiding judge.

But Justice Ranjan Gogoi, the presiding member of a three-judge Bench in Court 6 of the Supreme Court, was unmoved by his predecessor’s outburst.

The court’s unprecedented action against a former judge was triggered by remarks Justice Katju allegedly made in a blog post against the judges and the way they had dealt with the sensational Soumya murder and rape case of Kerala.

At one point, when Justice Katju continued to protest, Justice Gogoi asked security personnel to escort the retired judge out of the packed courtroom amid chants of “wrong, wrong, wrong” from lawyers.

Dressed in red tie and dark blue suit, Justice Katju stood clutching the folded photocopies of his blog posts as Justice Gogoi dictated the short order initiating contempt of court proceedings against him.

He had come on an invite from the Bench, also comprising Justices P.C. Pant and U.U. Lalit, for an open-court “debate” on his Facebook post that there were “fundamental flaws” in the Bench’s September 15 judgment sparing the life of the sole condemned man Govindaswamy after acquitting him of murder.

In an unprecedented order on October 17, the Bench had put the review petitions of Soumya’s mother and the State of Kerala on hold till it cleared the air with Justice Katju. It had suo motu converted the Facebook post of the former judge into a review petition.

Early in the hearing Justice Gogoi asked Justice Katju to not wander into case evidence, but stick to his Facebook claim that the case was of murder. Justice Gogoi said the Bench may be compelled to take cognisance of Justice Katju’s other blog posts if he persisted to deal with other aspects.

Justice Katju had replied: “It is your privilege... you can do anything you want. I am not afraid of anything. You invited me so that I can tell you why this is still murder.”

This is not the way SC judges should behave, says Katju

After Justice Katju finished his hour-long submissions, the Bench dismissed all the review petitions and turned to address Justice Katju, who was sitting in the front row.

Justice Gogoi handed over photocopies of certain blog posts of Justice Katju both to the retired judge and Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for the Kerala government, with an instruction to read certain underlined portions in them.

As soon as Justice Katju finished taking a cursory glance, Justice Gogoi asked him what he had to say.

“This is a free country. I have a right to say what I want,” Justice Katju replied.

Asked for his opinion, Mr. Rohatgi first said the blog posts were “scandalous” but later described them as “intemperate”.

Justice Gogoi said the underlined portions were remarks made against the judges on the Bench and not an opinion on the Soumya case judgment. “Well, we are issuing contempt notice against Justice Katju,” Justice Gogoi said.

At this moment, Justice Katju intervened and addressed Justice Gogoi: “First learn to be modest. This is not the way Supreme Court judges should behave. Don’t provoke me.”

“You are provoking us,” Justice Gogoi replied.

“I came here on your invite and I am sorry it has come to this,” Justice Katju said.

“We are sorry too,” Justice Gogoi said, before passing a short order initiating contempt action against him.

Earlier, exhorting the court to use “some common sense,” Justice Katju submitted that Govindachamy’s assault on Soumya was so violent that not only did she fracture her head, but also sustained deep injuries.

“So how does it matter if she jumped out of the moving train or was pushed out? She was trying to escape a murderous assault. Do you expect the girl to stay on in the train and die?” Justice Katju argued.

Justice Katju submitted that after the assault, the grievously injured and “half-dead” victim may have even staggered out of the compartment.

But the court said this narrative was a mere presumption and there was no evidence to conclusively prove that she either staggered out or was pushed out.

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