Gogoi J v. Katju J Round 2? Supreme Court issues contempt notice to former judge

Gogoi J v. Katju J Round 2? Supreme Court issues contempt notice to former judge

Vasudha Misra

In the very first instance of its kind, the Supreme Court of India issued notice to its former judge, Justice Markandey Katju, for a blog post on the Soumya verdict.

The suo motu petition, heard by a Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Prafulla C Pant and UU Lalit, was borne out of a post written by the former judge, wherein he had critiqued the controversial Govindachamy judgment and made certain remarks about the judges.

Through an order passed on October 17, Justice Katju was requested to attend the court hearings and provide assistance. It was not the only unique aspect of the matter.

Today, Justice Katju argued in a gentlemanly fashion, emphasising on the fact that evidence which is admissible need not necessarily be credible. For a moment, it seemed as if the hearing was routine.

Except it did not turn out to be.

The review petition filed by the State of Kerala was dismissed, but what really caught the former judge off-guard was when the matter shifted track into virtually uncharted territory. The Bench handed out a couple of sheets of paper, asking whether he was indeed the author of the comments reproduced.

When he answered in the affirmative, the Bench took suo motu action on the matter, going on to issue a notice of contempt, and asked Katju, J. to respond as to why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him. The Court had deemed the posts to be “an attack on the judges” and not a mere critique of a judgment that they had delivered.

Not one to back down, Justice Katju retorted,

“These threats don’t scare me. I am not afraid of this. I came to the court at your request to assist you in the matter. Is this how a Supreme Court judge should behave?”

The Bench also asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who appeared for Kerala in its review, to assist the court in determining whether the comments were contemptuous or not, to which he argued in the negative. He called the comments ‘intemperate’, but not contemptuous, per se. He will be given time to put forth his views in the next hearing.

Post the dictation of the order, chaos erupted in the courtroom, with many lawyers vocally denouncing the court’s order as “pre-mediated” and “uncalled for”. Justice Katju refused to comment on the matter outside the Court.

It is interesting to note how a seemingly innocuous case has now taken on historic proportions. And now, the question that Murali Krishnan recently asked seems to have turned out to be eerily prophetic.

Image taken from here.

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