Former Chief Justice of India (CJI) and Rajya Sabha MP Ranjan Gogoi, expressing his thoughts on his unprecedented order of initiating contempt proceedings against former apex court judge Justice Markandey Katju for his ‘contemptuous blog’, has said “we would not have pursued the matter” if he had expressed a “little regret”.
Justice Katju, who was a Supreme Court judge between 2006 and 2011, had criticised a judgement in a rape and murder case in his blogs and made comments on the judges which were prima facie found to be contemptuous.
For the first time in the country’s judicial history, the bench headed by Justice Gogoi had issued a suo motu contempt notice, against former judge Katju, which was later closed after his written apology.
“Markandey Katju, retired judge of the Supreme Court, posted a blog stating that the judgment was legally flawed (he is entitled to say that). But he went on to say more: that the ‘intellectual level’ of Supreme Court judges, barring justices Nariman and J Chelameswar, was extremely low. The language used by Katju in his blog was extremely undignified. Individual judges were named and derogatory statements were made…,” the 46th CJI wrote in his autobiography, ‘Justice for the Judge’, about the case.
“Had he even expressed a little regret about it or even in respect of the language used in the blog, perhaps we would not have pursued the matter. But he accused the bench of misleading him to come to court and of laying a trap to initiate contempt proceedings against him.”
“He was insulting in his language and disposition; his conduct in court, together with the language of the blog, left us with no choice but to proceed and issue a contempt notice to him,” Justice Gogoi writes.
He has chronicled the events that unfolded when Justice Katju appeared in the case to argue that the judgement of the apex court was flawed.
Justice Gogoi writes in the book that after the dismissal of the review petitions pertaining to the case, Justice Katju was given a copy of his blog and asked to read (it).
“I also gave the copy of the same to Mukul Rohatgi, the then Attorney General and asked him what he thought of it. Rohatgi, who was present in the court instantly and spontaneously said, ‘My Lord, this is contemptuous’. When he came to know that the blog was written by Katju, Rohatgi looked worried and tried to find a way out by offering alternate views..,” the former CJI writes on one of the most unprecedented cases in Indian legal history, where a former judge was in the dock.
The autobiography says that the remarks of the bench made Justice Katju furious and he alleged that he was not being given respect from sitting judges and a trap was laid to initiate contempt proceedings against him.
Justice Gogoi further writes that he was surprised when a senior advocate called him to convey that Justice Katju wanted to apologize and later the bench accepted the apology and closed the case.
Justice Katju had been critical of a 2016 judgment that had set aside the death penalty for the convict in Kerala’s Soumya rape-murder case.
The autobiography of Justice Gogoi, the first CJI from northeastern states, was launched by his successor and former CJI S A Bobde at a function in New Delhi on Wednesday. (PTI)