Retired Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju is the new chairman of the Press Council of India. He appeared on Devil’s Advocate with Karan Thapar this weekend and delivered a superlative critique of the media. He intends to bring the electronic media under the PCI and call it the Media Council of India.

His ideas aren’t Orwellian either: he wants powers to reactively fine media for irresponsible behaviour. For a country like India where really only a handful of journalists such as P. Sainath speak for more than half the population, we could do with some overseeing of the media without curbing their freedom of speech.

On principle, I’m for absolute free speech and free press. In this case, I’m okay with taking one step back. (Not that anyone cares what I think.)

***

He is also quite the character. An advocate of the Supreme Court of India wrote this on the day Justice Katju retired:

From Katju would fall the occasional Mirza Ghalib couplets, snippets of Urdu and Persian poetry, apart from Sanskrit aphorisms and Hindi kahavat (popular sayings) on life and the law. Many of these can be found quoted in Katju’s judgments as well, and these, to use an oft used line of his “have been set out in the impugned judgment[s] and hence we are not repeating the same here except wherever necessary.”

For a judge who paid obeisance to the Constitution on an hourly basis, Katju paid little heed to the Constitutional declaration that English be the language of the Supreme Court. He always found it fit to slip into Hindi or Urdu, or if he was in a particularly good mood and a counsel from the South of the river Cauvery appeared, cringe-inducing Tamil that left native speakers of the language asking for forgiveness from Thiruvalluvar’s spirit.

Advertisements