New Delhi, Aug 3 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Monday said that condemnation of Justice (retd.)Markandey Katju by parliament for describing Mahatma Gandhi as a British agent and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose as a Japanese agent did not prima facie violate his right to free speech and expression or in any way dent his reputation.
A bench of Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice R. Banumathi, while agreeing to further hear the matter, appointed senior counsel Fali Nariman as amicus curiae, as Justice Katju’s counsel Gopal Subramaniam told the court that his client could not have been condemned by parliament without being given an opportunity to be heard.
Asking Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi also to assist the court in the hearing of the matter, the court said that hearing would be on the point raised by Subramaniam including question of freedom of speech, right of an individual to protect his reputation and the supremacy of the constitution.
Justice Katju, a former judge of Supreme Court and former chairman of the Press Council of India, in one of his blogs, had described Gandhi as a British agent and Netaji as a Japanese agent.
Both housed of parliament had passed unanimous resolutions condemning and deploring his statement.
Justice Katju has urged the apex court to quash the Resolutions passed on March 11 and 12 by the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha as they violated his rights to express his views freely about historically-respected personalities and show “disagreement, dissent, criticism, non-acceptance or critical evaluation”.
“If condemnation is disagreement then it does not matter which is it (whether) an individual or an institution,” Justice Thakur said as Subramaniam sought to impress upon the court that condemnation was a far more serious a matter as its affected his right to free speech and expression guaranteed under article 19(1) (a) and protection of reputation guaranteed under article 21 of the constitution.
Reminding Subramaniam that Justice Katju has moved the apex court invoking Article 32 of the constitution for the enforcement of the fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution, the court asked him to show them how his fundamental rights have been violated by the parliamentary resolution condemning him.
“What is the effect of the resolution. Does it prevent you from reiterating your views,” observed Justice Thakur who said that if article or blog by Justice Katju was defamatory, then any one condemning him is not defamatory.
Asking Subramaniam to “formulate and give his argument” in support of his contentions, the court said that “once you expose yourself to public” by airing your views, then you must be prepared for a reaction.