Katju's judgment without hearing


Markanday Katju had a long career as Judge of Supreme Court and after retirement chosen to be Chairman, Press Council of India. He delivered a...

Markanday Katju had a long career as Judge of Supreme Court and after retirement chosen to be Chairman, Press Council of India. He delivered a 'judgment', unfortunately, without hearing the other side Known for his unusual and controversial remarks, Justice Markandeya Katju faced serious reaction from Hyderabad, where those who invited him rejected him. In a very rare incident, the organizers who sought his august presence as chief guest to release the logo of new 24 hour news-current affairs channel "Deccan TV" on 6th April, 2013 told him politely "Sir, we are not inviting you and you need not come to inaugurate the logo". They also cited the reasons, "we are doing this in protest against your anti-Telangana remarks which are highly unreasonable". The board of directors discussed and decided to cancel the invitation, which resolution was personally conveyed to Justice Katju by the Chairman of Deccan TV Mr. Zaheer Ali Khan during a break in PCI hearings held in Hyderabad. The logo was inaugurated by Professor Kodandaram, Chairman Joint Action Committee for Telangana. He said that Justice Katju erred legally and also factually. Almost all the speakers were critical of Katju's remarks and appreciated the organizers for boycotting him. Chief Editor of Deccan TV, Mr. M. A. Vasu was happy to announce boycotting of PCI Chairman who also explained that this reflected the bold character of their TV that is going to air the signals within a month. Mr. Shailesh Reddy, former chief of Zee 24 hours news channel felt that PCI chairman was ill-informed and did not try to know the reasons for the six decade long movement for separate state.
Markanday Katju had a long career as Judge of Supreme Court and after retirement chosen to be Chairman, Press Council of India. He delivered a 'judgment', unfortunately, without hearing the other side. He pronounced that '1. The demand for Telangana state is not justified, 2. It was advanced by self-interested personalities, 3. If Telangana is conceded the integrity of India would be adversely affected, 4. It might even result in each district seeking statehood and 5. I am against small states'. His statements number 1 and 5 are his opinions, but delivered as judgments without fully appreciating the causes. Chairman Katju has every right to express his opinion against small states. He said he is against the small states. The fact is that if Telangana is formed it will not be a small state. It consists of 10 districts and bigger than many states now existing in India. His statements 2 and 3 are factually wrong and the fourth is an exaggeration without basis. Before judging the character of Telangana movement he should have understood its origin, history and reasons for it. He should have heard the other side which is a vital principle of natural justice, which he might have practiced all through his career as judge. When Telugu speaking portions of Hyderabad, and a state of Telugu speaking districts separated from Madras state were bound within Andhra Pradesh boundary in 1956, why the two regions were not integrated even in 2013? This should have been the question from a reasonable person like Justice Katju. Why this was not asked? Because he holds a responsible past and present Justice Katju was expected to ask the question whether demand for Telangana is justified, instead of concluding that it was not. First point of justification is Telangana could be carved out as per the Constitution of India. If this new state is formed, it will be within the frame of federal character of Indian constitution which envisaged separation and distribution of powers, between states, center and local bodies. When Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel struggled hard to integrate hundreds of princely states, existing provinces and reorganized those states into present Indian nation, it in fact, got consolidated. After the reorganization also several new states were formed. Article 3 of Indian Constitution is unique provision of Indian federation which empowers the Center to carve out a new state even if the home state government and assembly oppose such formation. This Article was debated thoroughly in the Constituent Assembly wherein the Chairman of Drafting Committee of Constitution, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar convinced the House that when an exploited people in minority like Telangana people could not secure the status of a state as long as majority legislators from Coastal and Rayalaseema opposed, the center, if finds it justified could concede the new state. He said that India is un-destructible union of destructible states. Both the demand for Telangana and its formation is thus Constitutional, democratic and quite reasonable. Considering it as not justified could be an opinion, but a judge of his stature cannot form an opinion without basis and reason. Telangana Lawyers Joint Action Committee made a big representation to Justice Katju explaining the disparities imposed, exploitation continued and how the successive government s deliberately violated all the promises and suppressed the people of Telangana. It was not separation but 'demerger' to go back to pre-1956 position. Granting state will not divide the country, in fact, not granting might generate fissiparous tendencies. The absence of integration between the people of two regions for reasons of disparities, unreasonable diversions of river water, funds and powers will lead to reasonable conclusion that demand for demerger is justified and if state is not granted it might lead to avoidable strife and disintegration. People sought separate state firstly when merger with Andhra was proposed, secondly when Gentlemen's agreement was violated and many times thereafter. To say that selfish politicians started the agitation was a lack of historical knowledge. It was always people's demand, which leaders followed and tried to lead or mislead like Dr. M. Channa Reddy, who later mortgaged the movement and the people's party Telangana Praja Samithi to the Congress party, for an office of power. Another factual misstatement of Katju was that demands for several states would crop up if Telangana is conceded. No such demand has surfaced so far because of Telangana or creation of new state. It is again baseless to say that country would split into pieces if Telangana is granted. New states were formed several times in this country latest being in 2000, when Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttaranchal were formed. Except Vidarbha and Goorkha land, which were also age old demands, there were no other demands. Justice Katju's statement that each district would try to become a state is yet another baseless exaggeration. It is a paradox that Justice Katju who demanded pardon for Sanjay Dutt arguing that he did not commit any crime except a mistaken acquisition of automatic rifle AK 56 illegally, never considered the crisis of suicides of around thousand people for Telangana and tried to understand the reasons and justification. More than anything Justice Katju is the Chairman Press Council of India who has to enforce the code of ethics which include that every conclusive news item should not be published without verification or hearing the other side and that the media has to practice and follow neutrality. Unbiased reporting is the professional value of journalism. When Justice Srikrishna committee reported on Telangana wrote and affixed his signature to the top secret eighth chapter which recommended cheap and unethical tactics of suppressing the movement for Telangana by using the owners of media who belonged to Coastal Andhra by controlling the subordinates who are reporters and subeditors belonging to Telangana. This secret chapter was directed by the High Court of Andhra Pradesh to be disclosed and it was disclosed all those unethical aspects. The biased reporting and sustained campaign against Telangana by the leaders belonging to all parties from Coastal Andhra and Rayalaseema including the media is against the freedom of speech and expression of the people of Telangana. It is also professional misconduct and unethical practice on behalf of media not only for running anti-Telangana campaign and distorting the facts, but also spreading venom and provoking the frustrations making weak to prefer suicide. This has to be complained against and the forum available is the Press Council of India. But now it will be a hopeless exercise for Telangana people, especially agitators, when the Chairman himself was so partisan and not ready to hear their view point. Anti-Telangana media has already given an over publicity to the remarks of Katju by scrolling continuously, repeating his bites throughout the day and print media carrying it as a banner headline. The people should complain to PCI against the biased remarks by the Chairman himself. The writer is Professor and Coordinator, Center for Media Law and Public Policy, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad.
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