Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Appear in person, explain where we went wrong SC tells Katju

Appear in person, explain where we went wrong
SC tells Katju
New Delhi

In an unprecedented decision, the Supreme Court summoned its former Judge Markandey Katju on Monday to appear before it and personally justify his Facebook comments terming as “regrettable“ and “grievous error“ the SC's September 15 decision not to award death sentence to Govindachamy in Soumya rape-murder case.Both the trial court and the high court in Kerala had held Govindachamy guilty of sexually assaulting Soumya in a moving train and then killing her. Both courts had awarded him death sentence for the murder and life imprisonment for rape. The SC had confirmed his conviction and sentence for rape but acquitted him of murder charges.
The Kerala government through attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and Soumya's mother through Sidharth Luthra had filed petitions seeking review of the SC judgement and sought reimposition of death penalty .
Converting Justice Katju's Facebook comments into a suo motu review petition, a bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, P C Pant and U U Lalit said, “A former Judge of the Supreme Court Justice Markandey Katju in a blog published on Facebook has expressed an opinion that the judgement and order dated September 15 passed by this bench needs to be reviewed in an open court hearing.“
“Such a view coming from a retired judge of this court needs to be treated with greatest respect and consideration...We issue notice to Justice Markandey Katju and request him to appear in Court in person and participate in the proceedings on November 11 at 2 pm as to whether the judgement and order dated September 15 passed by this bench suffers from any fundamental flaw so as to require exercise of the review jurisdiction,“ the bench said in its order.
The bench extracted Justice Katju's blog in which he wrote: “I said that the Supreme Court has grievously erred in law by not holding Govindachamy guilty of murder.The court held that since it has not been proved that the accused had intention to kill, he cannot be held guilty of murder. What the court has overlooked is that Section 300 IPC, which defines murder, has four parts, and only the first part requires intention to kill. If any of the other three parts are established, it will be murder even if there was no intention to kill. It is regrettable that the court has not read section 300 carefully . The judgement needs to be reviewed in an open court hearing.“
There had been instances when former judges have criticised the apex court's judgements and decisions in the past. But, never before had they been asked to appear before the court and justify their comments. It is difficult to fathom what would turn the case would take on Justice Katju's personal explanation, but the former judge would love the platform to wax eloquent on criminal jurisprudence. But it will surely test Justice Katju's understanding of criminal law, especially Section 300 of IPC.
Soumya was allegedly pushed off a moving train by Govindachamy after he sexually assaulted her. But the apex court took note of the oral testimony of witnesses who stated that she had jumped off the train to escape the rapist and acquitted him of murder charges.
The 23-year-old girl had boarded the Ernakulam-Shoranur passenger train on February 1, 2011 at about 5.30pm from Ernakulam Town railway station to go to her home at Shoranur for her betrothal ceremony the following day .
The following from the Hindu:
In an unconventional order, a Supreme Court Bench on Monday converted a Facebook post of a former Supreme Court judge, Justice Markandey Katju, into a review petition and asked him to personally appear in court to “debate” his online criticism of the Bench’s verdict, commuting the death penalty in the sensational 2011 Soumya rape and murder case.
A three-judge Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi, P.C. Pant and U.U. Lalit took suo motu judicial notice of Justice Katju’s personal blog criticising the Supreme Court judges for “grievously erring in law by not holding the convict Govindaswamy guilty of murder.”
Justice Katju’s blog post said the September 15 judgment was “regrettable” and needed to be reviewed in open court.
“We issue notice to Justice Markandey Katju, former judge of this Court, and request him to participate in the proceedings on November 11, 2016 at 2 p.m. ... to require exercise of the review jurisdiction,” Justice Gogoi dictated in open court.
The Bench said Justice Katju’s views expressed in the blog – Satyam Bruyat – deserved the “respect and consideration” and a debate was in order.
Constitutional bar
However, Article 124 (7) of the Constitution may act as a bar on Justice Katju from “participating” in such a debate. The Article specifically mandates that no person who was a judge of the Supreme Court “shall plead or act” in any court or before any authority within the territory of India.

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