Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi representing the Centre today strongly urged the Supreme Court not to quash the resolution passed by both houses of the parliament against former Supreme Court Judge Markandeya Katju last year March for calling Mahatma Gandhi “a British agent” and Netaji Bose “a Japanese agent”
“There is no question of natural justice or breach of privilege involved. The resolution was a show of solidarity by a house which represents the people of the country . They have expressed anguish and condemnation of a statement by a person of high eminence”, Rohatgi argued before a bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur.
“Just like he has a right, MPs have a right. The person in question is a constitutional authority an ex- supreme court judge. He is no Tom Dick and Harry ..people are looking up to what they say..statement of people of that level bound to have some impact. Parliament does not react to any tom dick and harry”, he said.
“You defame the father of the nation and you say they can’t say what they have said and you rush to the court. I was shocked to hear a judge of the supreme court say this”, said Rohatgi adding “now a school student will say a supreme court judge said Gandhi is an agent and he should be right. The statement is so dangerous”.
Yesterday the Chief Justice also told Gopal Subramaniam, Katju’s lawyer that it was prima-facie of the view that the resolution passed by both houses of the parliament against him last year was only a strong expression of condemnation” which “did not infringe any of his fundamental rights”
Court was hearing a petition filed by Katju for quashing of the resolution claiming it curtailed his right of free speech and harmed his reputation. Katju’s lawyer Gopal Subramaniam also argued that he was condemned without being given an opportunity to be heard.
The bench also heard at length amicus curiae appointed in the case senior lawyer Fali S Nariman who was also of the view that the resolution is only an expression of strong disagreement and was not even in the nature of censure and did not warrant quashing. Following this the bench said it would like to hear Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s view and posted the matter for further hearing today.
“We feel it is nothing but a collective expression of opinion. It is merely a condemnation. They have not gagged you. They did not say you cannot say it again and nor did they seek your prosecution”, CJI Thakur told Subramaniam
When Subramaniam argued that “freedom of speech was protected even inside parliament, CJI Thakur had several pointed questions to ask. “You mean to say one can say anything he wants and nobody can condemn ? You mean to say an ordinary citizen can condemn but parliamentarians cannot jointly ? By the way what right of yours has been violated with this disagreement?
“They simply disagreed with you just like you disagreed with the devotees of Gandhi and Bose who say such statement was unjustified as they have done so much for the country”, CJI Thakur told Subramaniam
Amicus curiae in the case senior lawyer Fali Nariman also said “the resolution is only an expression of strong disagreement and was not even in the nature of censure. But the statement , remember is coming from a retired judge of the supreme court and not an ordinary citizen. People take it seriously… they get interested. If somebody like me says such things people will only say it is his own opinion. That is not the case with a former judge of the highest court of the land”.