India:Supreme Court Issues Contempt Notice To Former Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju

By Balbir Singh Soochjustice

In a dramatic development, the Supreme Court of India has issued a contempt notice to former apex court judge Markandey Katju. The contempt notice was issued for a blog he had written criticising judges. Justice Katju was in the Supreme Court to present his argument on why a three-judge bench was wrong on the Soumya murder case verdict. Legal experts have noted that this is first time in India’s judicial history that a former judge will face contempt. Justice Katju has been given six weeks to respond to the contempt notice.

After the contempt notice was issued, the court hall witnessed dramatic scenes as Katju kept referring to Justice Ranjan Gogoi as “Mr Gogoi” and reminded him that he was his junior. Justice Katju said he was not scared and asked the judge not to threaten him. “Mr. Gogoi, don’t threaten me. Don’t try to be funny with me. Do what you want,” Katju thundered in court.

The bench consisting of Justice Gogoi, Justice Prafulla Pant and UU Lalit had asked Justice Katju to appear before them and explain why he had written a blog criticising their judgment in the Soumya murder and rape case.

When the hearing began today, Justice Katju presented his argument. After he finished, the bench said that Justice Katju wanted them to condemn a man to death without sufficient evidence.

Later, a few blogs written by Justice Katju was presented to Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who read the blogs and said they were ‘intemperate’. The bench then directed the AG to issue contempt petition. Justice Katju then lost his cool and told the judges that he was not scared of them.

The bench said that Justice Katju’s remark on Justice Gogoi was an assault on the three-judge bench and not merely criticism.

Supreme Court reporters tweeted that when Justice Katju got furious at the bench’s remark, the judges asked security to escort him out of court. Katju then walked out of court.

The Supreme Court had upheld the lower court’s sentence on rape, but reduced the charge of murder to that of grievous assault.

Katju had argued in his blog that the court’s rationale that though Govindachamy had raped Soumya, there was no direct evidence that he had pushed her out of a running train. Justice Katju had said that his act of assaulting her had led her to fall out from the train.

After Justice Katju criticised the court judgment online, the SC took suo motu notice of is criticism on October 17, 2016 and asked him to come debate the matter in court. After weeks of refusal, Justice Katju finally agreed to appear in court.

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