Comments by retired Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju had India’s parliament in uproar this week. In a blog post published by the Times of India, the chairman of the Press Council of India hinted at a connection between the government and the judiciary in the elevation of an allegedly corrupt judge in Tamil Nadu.
This isn’t the first time that the man heading India’s print media oversight body has stirred the pot. Katju was known among his peers as an outspoken judge who passed landmark judgements and made scathing remarks in several cases.
While what he said and did as a judge might have had a legal context, Katju’s recent statements seem to have gone beyond his brief as press body chief. Take, for example, his appeal to let off convicted Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt or his objection to India’s highest civilian honour being awarded to sportspersons or film stars.
Last year, Arun Jaitley, then an opposition party lawmaker, asked Katju to quit office over his criticism of Bharatiya Janata Party leader Narendra Modi. Jaitley, now India’s finance minister, had said Katju should quit his “quasi-judicial office” before airing his political views.
“To those who talk of the development of Gujarat under Modi, I ask this question: should the malnourished children of Gujarat eat the roads, electricity and factories, which Modi has created?” Katju said in a February 2013 column in The Express Tribune, a Pakistani newspaper.