Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Supreme Court to Katju: Those who criticise must be ready to face criticism too

Retired Supreme Court Judge Markandey Katju failed to get relief from the apex court Monday, as a three-judge bench led by Justice T S Thakur said “he should be mentally prepared for his own criticism if he criticises others”. The bench was hearing a petition filed by Justice Katju for quashing Parliament’s resolution against him for his comments against Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose. In March, both the houses had passed resolutions condemning the former Press Council of India chairperson for his blog post in which he called Gandhi “a British agent” and Bose “a Japanese agent”. Justice Katju claimed the resolutions curtailed his right of free speech and harmed his reputation. 

But the bench said that prima facie, there was nothing wrong in the houses passing the resolutions, and it did not interfere with the fundamental rights of the former judge. The SC bench, also comprising Justices Gopala Gowda and R Banumathi, asked Justice Katju’s lawyer, Gopal Subramanium, why the blog post should not amount to defamation. “If this article is defamatory, everyone has a right to condemn him. Justice Katju is entitled to his view but the Parliament and others may disagree. If there is one action, it must be against Justice Katju for writing this article. What he said about Mahatma and Bose may amount to defamation,” said the bench. “Once you (Justice Katju) have chosen to expose yourself to public life, you will have to accept criticism,” said the bench. Questioning the need for the petition, the bench said: “Has your right to speak been taken away? No. Can anybody ever take it away from Justice Katju? We don’t think so. If he wants, he can again make such statements. But like he has a right to free speech, others also have a right to speak in criticism.” The bench said Parliament was entitled to put its condemnation on record. “The moment you write something and submit it to the judgement of the people, anyone can criticise you… anyone can disagree with you. If an individual can criticise you, why can’t an institution like Parliament? It is not a slur but a strong criticism of your views,” it said. Subramanium argued that Parliament could not pass the resolution without giving him notice. “How has this resolution affected your right? Which fundamental right of yours has been curtailed? If you want, you can still say what you had been condemned for. You can hold onto your personal belief but then you cannot prevent your criticism. We don’t see how the resolution is an injury to your reputation,” said the bench.

No comments:

Post a Comment