New Delhi: The Supreme Court said on Wednesday that the MPs who passed the resolution condemning Justice (Retd) Markandey Katju for his blog against Mahatma Gandhi and Subhas Chandra Bose enjoyed the same freedom of speech and expression as him.
“Do you mean to say that the Members of Parliament have no right to express their views? They have simply put their views in a collective manner in condemning your viewpoint,” a bench headed by Justice T S Thakur said.
It also said that prima facie the resolutions were passed to condemn the views and it was not a proceeding to “censure” Justice Katju.
Senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, appearing for Justice Katju, said the MPs, like ordinary citizens, are entitled to their views on issues.
In the present case, an institution like Parliament has taken recourse to “censurial jurisdiction” without according an opportunity to Justice Katju to put forth his views before condemning his statement made in his blog.
“Leave aside the Parliament, I condemn this. Do you have a cause of action against an ordinary citizen who enjoys the fundamental right as you did,” the bench asked.
“No,” Subramanium said, adding that in the present case, the two houses of Parliament passed the resolution without hearing Katju.
Senior advocate F S Nariman, who was appointed amicus curiae in the case, said Parliament did not respond to Justice Katju’s plea of being heard as it was not exercising the “censurial jurisdiction” and merely voicing the collective view of the house.
Parliament responded by issuing the resolution because the person concerned was a high constitutional functionary and it did not want the public at large to believe him that Gandhi and Bose were British and Japanese agents.
“If you want to exercise your right as a citizen, then be a citizen and don’t be a super citizen,” Nariman said, adding Parliament reacted as the person concerned was a former judge of the apex court.
The court has now asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to assist it in the matter.
Earlier, the apex court had said “prima facie” it did not find fault with Parliament passing resolutions condemning Justice Katju for his blog against Mahatma Gandhi and Bose.
Katju has moved the court seeking quashing of resolutions passed by both Houses of Parliament for calling Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash C Bose British and Japanese “agents” respectively.
In his Facebook post, the former judge had criticised Parliament for censuring him without even giving him a hearing.
The resolutions were passed against him by Lok Sabha on 12 March and Rajya Sabha on 11 March last year.
Alternatively, Katju has sought a direction to Lok Sabha Speaker and Chairman of the Upper House that he be heard personally or through a lawyer duly appointed by him.
“It is a basic principle of natural justice that no one should be condemned unheard. But paying scant regard to this principle, the Hon’ble members of both Houses of the Indian Parliament all flocked together with one voice to condemn me,
like the Queen of Hearts in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ who would say ‘Off with his head! ‘ even before she would give a hearing
to someone..,” Justice Katju, who has created controversies with several of his comments in the past, wrote in his post.
The petition claimed Parliament lacked “competence” to condemn him.