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The Importance of being Markandey Katju

November 19, 2012

The Indian Newspaper Society had just decided that it would accept Justice Markandey Katju’s regrets over his remarks that the majority of India’s media people are of poor intellectual level. Regardless of whether you agree with Katju’s immoderate (especially as he is a retired Judge of the Supreme Court and current Chief of the Press Council of India) expression, and I think some of us would, he has found an opportunity to be on the side of the intellectuals who hark for freedom of expression.

And he has done it with no feeble words. He protested the arrest of a 20-year old girl for posting a facebook comment, (on charges, among others, of hurting religious sentiment!)  wondering why Mumbai should shut down if a person like Bal Thackeray dies. He sent an e-mail to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, part of which reads,

To my mind it is absurd to say that protesting against a bandh hurts religious sentiments. Under Article 19(1)(a) of our Constitution freedom of speech is a guaranteed fundamental right . We are living in a democracy, not a fascist dictatorship. In fact this arrest itself appears to be a criminal act since under sections 341 and 342 it is a crime to wrongfully arrest or wrongfully confine someone who has committed no crime.


I request you to immediately order the suspension, arrest, chargesheeting and criminal prosecution of the police personnel (however high they may be) who ordered as well as implemented the arrest of that woman, failing which I will deem it that you as Chief Minister are unable to run the state in a democratic manner as envisaged by the Constitution to which you have taken oath, and then the legal consequences will follow

So the Chief Minister forwards the email to a flunky, “someone called Amitabh Rajan” in Justice Katju’s words. And the incensed Justice sends another one saying “Please realize that the matter is much too serious to be taken in this cavalier manner…” Okay, see the whole thing at the Justice’s blog itself:

(It is also interesting to see that Justice Katju has written a well worded blog on why he can’t pay any tributes to the dead Thackeray, available immediately below his e-mail to the CM.)

Somehow, the Justice has not mentioned the more ridiculous fact that a girl who “liked” the facebook post was also arrested.

Now about the girl. I am sure she understands perfectly why Mumbai shut down. Unless, in the enthusiasm of youth, she forgets that discretion is the better part of valour when confronted by the political and criminal classes (very little to tell them apart) in general, and the legacy the Thackeray has left in particular. I guess her question is a rhetoric one. Notwithstanding the decisions of the High Court of Kerala and the Supreme Court of India that “bandh”s and arrest without application of mind and in a cavalier fashion are both illegal, “we the people” have a “democratic right” to protest, to vandalise, to terrorise… The police, as successors to an imperial instrument of oppression, a “right” to ride roughshod, …

The importance of Justice Katju is that he can write these blogs and send these e-mails because he pulls rank and weight, unlike the poor girl.

Tailpiece: Justice Katju’s blog is titled “Satyam Bruyat.” I remember the verse alluded to says Satyam bruyat, Priyam bruyat / Na bruyat Satyam Apriyam. Speak the truth, speak of pleasant things, but do not speak the unpleasant truth. Maybe, the girl should have learned the part about not speaking the unpleasant truth and internalised it. Go about in a way that is concussion-apprehensive and annihilation-evasive.


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  1. Murali permalink

    Very well put. Justice Katju is a normally sensible voice if you overlooked his periodic predilection to stuff his mouth with his feet.

  2. I wanted to click the “like” button. But will I be arrested like that poor girl?

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