Thursday 29 November 2012

Letter to West Bengal CM

Dear Mamataji,

  You must have learnt that the Chief Minister of Maharashtra has ordered the suspension of the police officers who ordered the arrest of the Mumbai girl who posted on Facebook her objection to the shutdown of Mumbai on the death of Bal Thackeray.

I request you to do the same to the policemen who ordered and implemented the arrest of Prof. Mahapatra of Jadavpur University and Siladitya Choudhari, and you should immediately withdraw the cases against them and apologize to them.You should also immediately restore Damyanti Sen, the upright police officer, whom you wrongly victimized,and you should openly apologize to her for your wrong. We are all human beings and we all make mistakes, but a gentleman is one who realizes his mistake and apologizes. You should also apologize to Tanya Bharadwaj whom you insulted on the CNN IBN show.

  I can assure you that if you do so you will go up in the esteem of the people of West Bengal, and indeed the whole country.

 From what I could gather during my visits to Kolkata, your Ministers and bureaucrats are afraid to speak out their minds fearlessly before you, and are terrorized by your unpredictable and whimsical behaviour. To say the least, this is a very unhealthy state of affairs, and you will not be able to remain as Chief Minister for long unless you change your ways and become more tolerant. 

 Kautilya has said in the Arthashastra that a successful ruler is one who appoints good advisers, and listens to their advice. Of course, after listening to their advice it is ultimately for you to take the final decision, but your advisers should feel free to express their opinions fearlessly. In this connection I may mention that Sardar Patel, the first Union Home Minister, told his Secretaries (senior I.C.S. officers ) that they should express their views freely, even if their view is totally different from his own, and he would never take offence. In fact if they do not express their views freely they were of no use to him. This is the way you should also conduct yourself.

 It is still not too late for you if you listen to my advice and change your ways. I am your well wisher, and would like you to do well, and in fact, if you remember, I had praised you at one time. But of late you seem to have become increasingly intolerant and whimsical, which is only going to land you in big trouble.

  Justice Katju

Tuesday 27 November 2012

Congratulation Letter To Maharashtra CM

Dear Chief Minister,

This is just to congratulate you on your strong step in suspending the police officers who arrested the girl who put up an item on Facebook objecting to the shutdown in Mumbai on the death of Bal Thackeray, as well as the girl who supported her.

The Supreme Court (in the appeal coming from the judgment of the Kerala High Court ) and High Courts have repeatedly held that such Bandhs and shut downs are illegal as they paralyze the entire civic life in the city. Hence what the girls did was in accordance with the Supreme Court judgment. How then could their act be called illegal? In fact it was the policemen who arrested the girls who acted illegally and committed the criminal offences mentioned in sections 341 and 342 I.P.C.

        In the Nuremburg Trials the the Nazi war criminals took the plea that orders were orders, and they were only carrying out the orders of their superior Hitler. This plea was rejected by the International Tribunal, which held that such orders were illegal,and illegal orders should be disobeyed, and consequently those found guilty were hanged. 

If a policeman is issued an illegal order by his superior (whether political or police ) it is his duty to refuse to carry out such illegal order, otherwise he must be charged for a criminal offence, and  given harsh punishment. For instance, if a policeman is given an order by a superior to commit murder, dacoity or rape, he must not obey such order. It seems to me that the delinquent police officers who ordered the arrest of Shaheen and the other girl, and those who implemented this illegal order, succumbed to the pressure of the hundreds of hooligans who came to the police station. What kind of policemen are these who succumb to hooligans?

 You have therefore acted correctly in taking strong action in the matter.

   I am informed that in recent years hooligan gangs have flourished in Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra, and they have terrorized people living in the state. Some of them profess a separatist ideology. In my opinion these should be crushed with an iron hand, and it is your duty, as the Chief Minister to do this, as Chanakya has advised in the Arthashastra, and Bheeshma Pitamah in his upadesh to Yudhishthir in the Shantiparva of Mahabharat.

  Justice Katju

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Release of Sarabjit Singh : Letter to H.E. The Pakistan President and H.E. The PM of Pakistan

H.E. The Pakistan High Commissioner to India
Janab Salman Bashir Saheb

Your Excellency,
I request you to convey my following message to H.E. The President of Pakistan and H.E. The Prime Minister of Pakistan :

Your Excellency,

           You must have heard that Ajmal Kasab has been hanged in India. I wish to respectfully point out to you that his case is totally different from that of Sarabjit Singh who has been on death row in Pakistan for 21 years in connection with the Lahore bomb blast in 1990 which killed 14 persons.

About Kasab there is no doubt about his guilt, as he was caught red handed. However, there is grave doubt about the guilt of Sarabjit Singh. So the two cases are not similar.

No doubt your Courts have convicted Sarabjit, but I have carefully perused the evidence in his case and have found serious flaws in the prosecution version. His name was not even in the First Information Report. The main prosecution witness Shaukat Salim later retracted his statement and said it was given under police pressure. As regards his alleged 'confession', we all know how 'confessions are obtained in both our countries (by third degree methods ). Sarabjit's own version was that he had gone illegally to Pakistan for doing illegal liquor trade, and was arrested there and later falsely implicated in the bomb blast case.

 Be that as it may, he has already spent over 21 years on death row, where one does not know when he may be hanged. This is enough to drive any one mad. I sincerely urge you to show mercy and excercise your power of pardon in his case.

  In my previous 4 letters to you pleading for his pardon I have quoted Portia's speech on mercy in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice and the poem of the great Urdu poet Faiz. 

I earnestly request you once again to pardon him and send him back to India


Justice Markandey Katju

(Chairman, Press Council of India 
Former Judge, Supreme Court of India )

Response of H.E. The Pakistan Ambassador to India

Thank you Justice Katju. Your message will be forwarded to Islamabad.
Salman Bashir

Tuesday 20 November 2012

Maharashtra Chief Minister's Reply

Dear Justice Katju,

This is in response to your email message dated 19/11/2012 in the matter of arrest of Ms. Shaheen Dhada and Ms. Rini Srinivasan residents of Palgarh, District Thane by the Police on 18/11/2012.

Inspector General of Police, Konkan Range has been advised to enquire in to the matter. He has been asked to submit his report within two days as regards the nature of offence, and the circumstances leading to the arrest of the above persons.

The State Government has taken the matter in all seriousness and strict action will be taken against the defaulting personnel, in case a default is established in the enquiry.

According to the first information received from the Home Department, a complaint was lodged by the local residents of the Palgarh in the police station regarding the comments of Ms. Shaheen Dhada on the Facebook.The local police station arrested Ms. Dhada and Ms. Srinivasan after registering an offence u/s 295 A of the IPC, and 66 A of the Information Technology Act. They were later released on bail.

In a later incidence of vandalising the hospital of a relative of Ms. Shaheen Dhada, the police has arrested nine persons. 

Appropriate action against the persons responsible for the arrest of the girls will be taken upon getting the enquiry reports of the Inspector General of Police, Konkan Range.

With Regards, 

Yours sincerely,

(Prithviraj Chavan)

Chief Minister Maharashtra

Date : 20/11/2012  

Justice Markandey Katju,
Press Council Of India,
Soochna Bhavan,
8, CGO Complex
Lodhi Road, New Delhi 

Monday 19 November 2012

Letter to Maharashtra CM-II

Dear Chief Minister,

  You have not replied to my email but only forwarded it to someone called Amitabh Rajan, whom I do not know, and who has not had the courtesy to  respond to me. Please realize that the matter is much too serious to be taken in this cavalier manner, because the principle of liberty is at stake.The entire nation wants to know what action you have taken. I would therefore request you to immediately let me know what you are doing in this matter.

Are we living in a democracy or not ? How can a person be arrested for objecting to the shutdown in Mumbai on Thackeray's death ? Article 21 of the Constitution, to uphold which you have taken an oath, states that no one can be deprived of his life or liberty except in accordance with law. Does Article 21 not exist in Maharashtra ? Does freedom of speech guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) also not exist in your state ?

Please realize that silence is not an option for you in the matter. The entire nation is furious at this apparently illegal arrest. Therefore I once again request you to tell me, and through me the entire nation, why this arrest of a woman was made in Mumbai just for putting up an apparently innocuous material on the Facebook, and what action you have taken against the delinquent policemen and others involved in this high handedness and blatant misuse of state machinery
  Justice Katju (Chairman, Press Council of India and Former Judge, Supreme Court of India)

Letter to Maharashtra CM

The Chief Minister
Dear Chief Minister,
                I am forwarding an email I have received stating that a woman in Maharashtra has been arrested for protesting on Facebook against the shut down in Mumbai on the occasion of the death of Mr. Bal Thackeray. It is alleged that she has been arrested for allegedly hurting religious sentiments.

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.

Hence if the facts reported are correct, 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.

 Justice Katju
(Chairman, Press Council of India, and former Judge, Supreme Court of India)

Why I can't pay tribute to Thackeray

His bhumiputra theory flies in the face of our Constitution and works against the unity needed to ensure development

Muppadhu kodi mugamudayal
Enil maipuram ondrudayal
Ival Seppumozhi padhinetudayal
Enil Sindhanai ondrudayal
(This Bharatmata has 30 crore faces
But her body is one
She speaks 18 languages
But her thought is one)
– Tamil poet Subramania Bharathi

Bhedad gana vinauyanti bhinnah supajapah paraih
Tasmat samghatayogesu prayateran ganah sada
(Republics have been destroyed because of internal divisions among the people;
Hence a republic should always strive to achieve unity and good relations among the people)
– Mahabharat, Shanti Parva, chapter 108, shloka 14

Tesam anyonyabhinnanam svauaktim anutisthatam
Nigrahah panditaih karyah ksipram eva pradhanatah
(Therefore the wise authorities should crush the separatist forces trying to assert their strength)
– Mahabharat, Shanti Parva, 108:26

Political leaders, film stars, cricketers, etc. are all falling over one another to pay tribute to the late Bal Thackeray. Amidst this plethora of accolades and plaudits pouring in from the high and mighty, I humbly wish to register my vote of dissent.
I know of the maxim De mortuis nil nisi bonum (of the dead speak only good), but I regret I cannot, since I regard the interest of my country above observance of civil proprieties.
What is Bal Thackeray’s legacy?
It is the anti-national ‘sons of the soil’ (bhumiputra) theory.
Article 1(1) of the Indian Constitution states: “India, that is Bharat, shall be a Union of States.”
Thus, India is not a confederation but a union.
Article 19 (1) (e) states: “All citizens shall have the right — to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India.”
Thus, it is a fundamental right of a Gujarati, south Indian, Bihari, U.P.ite, or person from any other part of India to migrate to Maharashtra and settle down there, just as it is of Maharashtrians to settle down in any part of India (though there are some restrictions in J&K, and some North-East States, due to historical reasons).
The bhumiputra theory states that Maharashtra essentially belongs to Marathi people, while Gujaratis, south Indians, north Indians, etc. are outsiders. This is in the teeth of Articles 1(1) and 19(1)(e) of the Constitution. India is one nation, and hence non-Maharashtrians cannot be treated as outsiders in Maharashtra.
The Shiv Sena created by Thackeray attacked south Indians in the 1960s and 70s, and vandalised their restaurants and homes. In 2008, Biharis and U.P.ites living in Mumbai (the bhaiyyas who eke out a livelihood as milk and newspaper vendors, taxi drivers etc.) were described as infiltrators and attacked, their taxis smashed, and several beaten up. Muslims were also vilified
This, of course, created a vote bank for Thackeray based on hatred (as had Hitler, of whom Thackeray was an admirer), and how does it matter if the country breaks up and is Balkanised?
Apart from the objection to the ‘sons of the soil’ theory for being anti-national and unconstitutional, there is an even more basic objection, which may rebound on Thackeray’s own people.
India is broadly a country of immigrants (like North America) and 92-93 per cent of the people living in India today are not the original inhabitants but descendants of immigrants who came mainly from the north-west seeking a comfortable life in the sub-continent (see the article ‘What is India?’ on my blog and the video on the website ).
The original inhabitants (the real bhumiputra) of India are the pre-Dravidian tribals, known as Adivasis (the Bhils, Gonds, Santhals, Todas, etc.) who are only 7-8 per cent of our population today.
Hence if the bhumiputra theory is seriously implemented, 92-93 per cent of Maharashtrians (including, perhaps, the Thackeray family) may have to be regarded as outsiders and treated accordingly. The only real bhumiputra in Maharashtra are the Bhils and other tribals, who are only 7-8 per cent of the population of Maharashtra.
Several separatist and fissiparous forces are at work in India today (including the bhumiputra theory). All patriotic people must combat these forces.
Why must we remain united? We must remain united because only a massive modern industry can generate the huge wealth we require for the welfare of our people — agriculture alone cannot do this — and modern industry requires a huge market. Only a united India can provide the huge market for the modern industry we must create to abolish poverty, unemployment and other social evils, and to provide for the huge health care and modern education systems we must set up if we wish to come to the front ranks of the most advanced countries.

Hence I regret I cannot pay any tribute to Mr Bal Thackeray.

Published in The Hindu on 19/11/2012

Saturday 17 November 2012

A jury of their peers

Media freedoms come with responsibilities. A stronger Press Council, composed of media professionals, would be the best regulator

The Indian Express carried a report about two television reporters, from India TV and ABP News, accused of blackmail for allegedly trying to extort Rs 20 lakh from a person by threatening to implicate him in a false case of rape (‘Two television reporters accused of sting and blackmail: ‘Rs 20 lakh or we air sex tape’’, November 9). Earlier, Jindal Steel alleged that Zee News attempted to extort Rs 100 crore from it. There are other allegations of such practices by media personnel. Paid news is apparently a common practice. Madhu Kishwar, a senior journalist herself, said on Rajya Sabha TV that many media people are bribable and manipulable.
When I spoke of regulating the media, there was a hue and cry in a section of it, which painted me as some kind of dictator who, at the behest of the government, wanted to gag or muzzle the media and crush media freedom.
Although I have expressed my views earlier, I would like to give a comprehensive clarification.
There is no such thing as absolute freedom. In our Constitution, Article 19(1)(a), which provides for media freedom (as part of freedom of speech), is subject to Article 19(2), which states that the freedom in Article 19(1) (a) is subject to reasonable restrictions in the public interest. Thus, there cannot be freedom to defame, incite religious riots, or extort and blackmail.
There is a difference between control and regulation. Where there is control, there is no freedom; while under regulation, there is freedom but it is subject to reasonable restrictions. I am in favour of regulation and am opposed to control. The question arises: who is to do this regulation? I am opposed to regulation by the government, but am in favour of regulation by an independent statutory authority like the Press Council of India.
The Press Council has, apart from its chairman, 28 members, 20 of whom are representatives of the press (six owners, six editors, seven working journalists and one from a news agency). These 20 members are not appointed by the government but elected by the press. Of the other eight members, five are members of Parliament and there is one person each from the Bar Council of India, the UGC and the Sahitya Akademi. Decisions in the Press Council are taken by majority vote and even I have to respect the verdict of the majority.
If the Press Council Act is amended and broadcast media comes under the Press Council (which can be renamed the “Media Council”), it can have an additional 20 members from broadcast media. Hence, 40 of 48 members will be media representatives. If this media council decides to take penal action by majority vote against a media person or media house, it will be a judgment by one’s peers and thus a form of self-regulation.
It may be mentioned that the Bar Council can suspend the licence of a lawyer, but Bar Council members are themselves lawyers. Similarly, the Medical Council has doctors as its members and can suspend a doctor’s licence. The proposed media council should have the power to suspend the licence of a media person or outlet, but such a suspension should be by majority vote of the media council.
This media council must be statutory and have penal powers, including the power to suspend licences. The News Broadcasting Standards Authority, which professes “self-regulation”, is a non-statutory body with no penal powers and is therefore toothless.
The Press Council has only the power of admonition or censure and no power to impose a fine or suspend a licence. I have advocated enlarging this body and making it a media council with penal powers, but the penal power should not be exercised by the chairman or the government, but by a majority of members. It will thus be a judgment by one’s peers. What reasonable objection can there be to this suggestion? Objecting to it implies that some media houses do not even trust their peers.
Those who accuse me of trying to crush media freedom can see my track record. I have fought for media freedom every time it was threatened, whether in Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, the Karnataka legislative assembly, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, etc. I was the strongest critic of the arrest of the cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, and Virbhadra Singh’s statement that he would break the camera of a media person. I genuinely believe that the media should be broadly free, and I have appreciated the good work done by the media in exposing scams. There are many excellent journalists who are doing a good job.
At the same time, I have also said that freedom comes hand-in-hand with responsibility. Evidently, media owners accustomed to having a free ride and making a lot of money (through advertisement revenue, etc), or who are using their media house to protect their other businesses where they are under suspicion of malpractice (one newspaper owner is said to have several other businesses, like sugar factories, coal blocks, etc), do not want any kind of regulation. If this attitude continues, I am afraid it will be counterproductive and may ultimately result in the severe curtailment of media freedom.

Published in The Indian EXPRESS on 17/11/2012

Friday 16 November 2012

Indian Media - Wake Up Hanuman!

The test of every system is whether under it the standard of living of the masses is rising or falling. The same applies to the Indian media too.

If freedom of the media is helping raise the standard of living of the Indian people, it is a good thing and must be supported. If, however such freedom is keeping the Indian people backward and poor it is a bad thing and must be suppressed. 

It follows that freedom of the media has by itself no value, and it will have value only if it helps improve the lives of the Indian masses. And the lives of our people will improve if scientific ideas are propagated and backward and unscientific ideas like casteism, communalism, and superstitions are combated.

Today the Indian people are facing terrible problems---massive poverty (it is estimated that 75-80 % of our people are earning 25 rupees a day), huge unemployment, sky-rocketing prices (vegetables cost about Rs. 40 a kg. ), lack of any proper healthcare for the poor people, child malnutrition (about half our children are malnourished), farmers suicides (about 47 every day for the last 15 years, making a total of about 250,000   a world record of farmers suicides ), etc

And yet our media (particularly the broadcast media ) devotes 90 % of its coverage to lives of film stars, cricket, and glamour. A few years back the Lakme Fashion parade was covered by 512 accredited journalists, at a time when the farmers who grew the cotton worn by the models in the Fashion Parade were committing suicide one hour's flight away in the Vidarbha region. Only one or two journalists covered those suicides locally. 

Is this a responsible way in which our media has been behaving ? Is not our media behaving like the French Queen Marie Antoinette, who when told that the people have no bread said that they could eat cake.

Amitabh Bachchan's 70th birthday, Kareena kapoor's affairs, Sachin Tendolkar's 100th century, Rahul Dravid's retirement from cricket, Dev Anand and Rajesh Khanna's death, Rakhi Sawant's swayamvar, etc-----these are depicted as the real issues facing the nation, not poverty, not unemployment, not price rise, not healthcare, not malnutrition.

Several T.V. channels show astrology, which is pure superstition and humbug, and therefore tends to perpetuate backwardness of our people. In my opinion there should not be any freedom to show such superstitions.

The corporatization and crass commercialization of the media is no doubt largely responsible for this irresponsible behaviour. While corporates may have a legal right to own and run the media, this freedom has to be coupled with responsibilities. There cannot be freedom to to defame, incite religious, caste, regional or racial riots, , extort and blackmail, hold media trials, practice paid news, etc Hence a balance has to be struck between freedom and responsibility.

A section of the media has misunderstood me and depicted me as some sort of tyrant who wishes to muzzle or gag the media at the behest of the government, when the truth is that I have been throughout my one year as Chairman of the Press Council fighting for media freedom, and raised my voice of protest against attacks against media freedom and media persons, whether in J&K, Maharashtra, U.P. , West Bengal, Karnataka, etc. I strongly criticized the arrest of the cartoonist Aseem Trivedi, and the threat of a senior politician to break the camera of a journalist.

At the same time I have been constantly advising media people to act responsibly and in a manner which will benefit the Indian people. This they can do by spreading scientific ideas among the masses as scientific thinking is the only way out to solve the country's huge problems.

I regard the Indian media as Hanuman, and I regard myself as Jambawant. The Indian people are Lord Rama, and it was the duty of Hanuman to serve Lord Rama. However, Hanuman forgot his powers and duty because of the curse of a sage. Like Jambawant, I have been reminding Hanuman (the media ) of its duty to Lord Rama (the Indian people ).. The Indian media has to serve the Indian people, and if it does so it will win the respect and admiration of the people.

   -Justice Katju

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Wake Up, India's Bourbons

It’s time for our Bourbons to wake up and sense the anger of the public

Rau mein hai rakhsh-e-umr kahaan dekhiye thame
Nai haath baag par hai, na paa hai rakaab mein
Mirza Ghalib’s couplet quintessentially reflects the historical situation in India today.
“Rau” means speed, “rakhsh” means horse, “umr” means time (it also means life, but here it means time or era), “bag” means “reins” (of a horse), and “rakaab” means stirrup.
Hence the sher means: “The horse of the times is on the gallop, Let us see where it stops/The rider has neither the reins in his hands, nor his feet in the stirrup.”
Ghalib was probably writing of the happenings at the time of the Great Mutiny of 1857, when events took place at a galloping pace. But the beauty of Ghalib’s poetry (as also of much of Urdu poetry) is that it is often universal in time and place.
Today in India, the pace of history has speeded up. Events are taking place even more rapidly than earlier, and one wonders where all this will end.
In the media, one scam after another is reported, often involving politicians who swear by the poor and disadvantaged sections of society.
Talleyrand said of the Bourbons that they “saw nothing, remembered nothing, and forgot nothing.” Most Indian politicians today remind one of the Bourbons. They do not see the public anger rising against them and reaching boiling point. They do not remember the fate of the Bourbons, the Hapsburgs, and the Romanovs (if they have even heard of them). And they do not forget their power and pelf, thinking these will continue forever, as did the ill-fated dynasties mentioned above.
The decisive factor is the economy. The Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said recently that deceleration in the Indian GDP growth has bottomed out at 5.5 per cent. This rosy picture is in sharp contrast to Standard & Poor’s warning that the Indian economy’s sovereign credit rating could be downgraded to “junk status” in 24 months.
What economists like Dr. Ahluwalia do not see is that the problem in India is not how to increase production (that can easily be increased considering the large number of engineers and technicians, and immense natural resources) but how to raise the purchasing power of the Indian masses. After all, what is produced has to be sold, but how can it be sold when 75-80 per cent of our people are poor, living on about Rs.25 per day?
Moreover, if GDP growth benefits only a handful of rich people by making them richer while the poor become poorer because of inflation, it follows that the goods manufactured cannot be sold because the masses will have no purchasing power.
In recent months there has been a manufacturing decline in India, and export-oriented industries have been particularly hard hit because of the recession in western countries.
India’s relative stability was based on the 15-20 per cent middle class, which, considering our huge population of 1,200 million, would be about 200-250 million. This provided a market for our goods and services. This middle class is fast losing its purchasing power due to skyrocketing prices, and this in turn is fast eroding India’s stability, as can be seen from the popular agitations lately.
Massive poverty, huge unemployment, skyrocketing prices, absence of health care for the poor people, farmers’ suicides, child malnutrition, etc, are all an explosive mixture. If the Bourbons do not wake up now (of which I see little likelihood at present), a prolonged period of chaos and anarchy seems inevitable in India in the near, not distant, future.

Published in The Hindu on November 7, 2012