Justice Katju’s remarks against Gandhi and Bose: SC appoints F.S. Nariman as amicus curiae; says resolution prima facie does not violate Katju’s rights
A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice T.S. Thakur today refused to scrap a Parliament resolution that slammed former Press Council Chairman Markandey Katju for his comments against Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose, while agreeing to further hear the matter.
The Court observed that prima facie, the resolution did not violate his freedom of speech and expression. It observed, "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 amount to defamation.”
"Has the resolution taken away your right to speech? The moment you put your views in public domain you must be mentally ready for condemnation," the Court added.
The Court has appointed Senior Advocate Fali S. Nariman as the amicus curiae and asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to be present in the next hearing.
Justice Katju had faced the Parliament’s wrath after it adopted a unanimous resolution condemning Justice Katju's blog post that called Mahatma Gandhi "a British agent" and Subhash Chandra Bose "a Japanese agent".
The blog was titled- ‘Gandhi—A British Agent’. Besides calling him a British agent, the blog said, “By constantly injecting religion into politics continuously for several decades, Gandhi furthered the British policy of divide and rule….Gandhi successfully diverted the freedom struggle from this revolutionary direction to a harmless nonsensical channel called Satyagrah. This also served British interests.”
Condemning the statement, the Rajya Sabha resolution said, "This House expresses its unequivocal condemnation of the recent remarks of the former judge of the Supreme Court, Shri Justice Markandey Katju, against the Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, who led the Indian National Army for the freedom of the country."
The next day, i.e. is on March 12, 2015 a similar resolution was passed in the Lok Sabha condemning Justice Katju’s:
“Father of the Nation Gandhiji and Netaji Shri Subhash Chandra Bose both are venerated by the entire country. The contribution of these two great personalities and their dedication is unparalleled. The statement given by former Judge of the Supreme Court and former Chairman of Press Council of India Shri Markandey Katju is deplorable. This House unequivocally condemns, the statement given by former Judge of Supreme Court Shri Markandey Katju unanimously.”
Justice Katju has however argued that he could not have been condemned by the Parliament without being given an opportunity to be heard. He has hence sought quashing of the Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha resolutions, alleging violation of rights under Articles 14, 19(1) (a) and 21. You may read the LiveLaw story here.
Commenting on the events that transpired during the hearing today, Justice Katju later wrote on his blog: “[T]he resolutions of both Houses of Parliament say that they '' condemn '' me, and that my statement is '' deplorable ''. Surely this adversely affects my reputation. And it has been held in several decisions of the Supreme Court that right to reputation is part of Article 21 of the Constitution, and is therefore a fundamental right.”
He further argues, “Mr. Subramaniam also argued that had the statement (condemning me and saying my view is deplorable) been made by a private person the position may have been different. But when it is made by a State institution, particularly by a high state institution like Parliament, it comes under a different category, and certainly affects my reputation, apart from affecting my freedom of speech guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution.”