Monday, 19 September 2011

Justice Katju : A judge I will never forget

As a Legal Correspondent for many years, I have seen many judges coming, working and retiring. But not everyone deserve a writing. Justice Markandey Katju is one man who earned my attention and respect.And today I want to confess, he is one judge, I will never forget in my life. Though many a times, I was highly critical of the way he functioned in the highest court of the country. I always described Justice Katju as a man who does the right things in the wrong way!

I remember the first time when I entered in the courtroom of Justice Markandey Katju.Don't remember the case but what I noticed about him was that he was speaking in Hindi. I was shocked! Never before I had seen a judge who would speak in Hindi in Supreme Court of India. To be very frank, I didn't know about his background then. A senior journalist told me that he is Justice Markandey Katju. He comes from a reputed family of Allahabad and a very knowledgeable man.

Gradually I started going to his court regularly. Journalists used to say jokingly, if you dont have any story on any given day, Just go to Justice Katju's court. Many a times he would come up with strong observations. In a case relating to a corrupt babu, Justice Katju observed that the corrupt should be hanged on the lamp posts in public. This was not the end, another case of a matrimonial dispute and Justice Katju observed that men should follow what their wives say for peace at home. I remember him saying "...अरे भई सब बीवी की मानते हैं.. हम भी मानते हैं..." that was hilarious.I even told my wife jokingly that now Justice Katju has said this so I will follow what you will say.

But observations are not the only thing you would remember about Justice Katju. Sometimes I would criticise Justice Katju for running his court like a Kangaroo Court. He would issue notice in a matter and dismiss the petition on the next hearing without even hearing the counsels. I would know that this petition deserves to be dismissed but why not hear the counsel if you have issued notice on the first place? And if you had to dismiss a petition, why issue a notice in that? But that was his style of functioning.

During the hearings, the counsels feared telling him facts relating to history. During the arguments a counsel mentioned something from the history. Justice Katju was quick to correct him. Justice Katju even told him to check his facts again. And by previous experience, no one questioned him. Everyone knew that if Justice Katju is saying it, it must be true. That is the respect he has earned in the court.

Another incident which I will never forget in my life is the court room drama when Justice Katju summoned a lower court judge in his court room. The lady judge had passed a stay on a vacation order relating to some property in Connaught Place. The vacation order was passed by the bench of Justice Katju and Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra. I remember Justice Katju was furious! He said how can a lower court judge overrule order of the Supreme Court? And just as it would happen in Mougal Emperor Jahangir's court, the lady judge started pleading "...Mercy my lord mercy!! Mercy..."

And as Justice Katju would react, he said "...अब क्या करें.. हमारा भी तो दिल है..." Justice Katju wanted to pardon that lady judge. But! the counsel for the opposite party objected to this. He said something should be done in this case. Finally Justice Katju referred the matter to the Delhi High Court to see if some disciplinary action could be taken in this regard.

Lastly, one judgment by Justice Katju which I will never forget in my life. The judgment in the case of Aruna Shanbaug who is lying in the permanent vegetative state since more than thirty years. Aruna's friend wanted mercy killing for Aruna but Justice Katju did not allow it. At the same time, Justice Katju laid down a law on mercy killings in India. He set up a procedure following which a person can be given Euthanasia. Otherwise Indian Law did not permit mercy killings. 

Last but not the least, his judgment on rehabilitation of sex workers and his judgment saying something is rotten in Allahabad High Court are worth mentioning here. And let me confess, though I never liked his style of functioning, he is the only judge who earned tremendous respect in my heart. I wish he reads this blog some day. And if you are reading this blog sir, I respect you from the core of my heart!

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