The Supreme Court asked its retired judge, Justice Markandey Katju, on Monday to appear personally in court and challenge a judgment after he assailed in his personal blog a verdict commuting the death sentence of a rape-murder convict to life.
This is the first time the top court has taken judicial note of a retired judge’s personal opinion.
A bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice PC Pant and Justice UU Lalit said Katju has been requested to participate in the proceedings on November 11.
His appearance is required to ascertain if the September 15 judgment on the rape-murder convict “suffers from any fundamental flaw so as to require exercise of the review jurisdiction”.
In his blog post on September 17, Justice Katju called the verdict a “grave error” not expected from “judges who had been in the legal world for decades”.
The court took cognizance of Justice Katju’s blog during the hearing of a Kerala government petition seeking a review of its decision in the Saumya rape-murder case. Convict Gonvindaswamy’s sentence has been reduced to a life term because of lack of evidence.
The victim’s mother too had urged the top court to review its judgment.
The bench did not “consider it appropriate” to reserve its verdict on the two petitions without hearing the retired judge.
“Such a view coming from a retired judge of this court needs to be treated with greatest respect and consideration,” the bench noted, converting the blog into a review petition. It recorded the blog in the order.
In the blog, Justice Katju criticised the bench for believing “hearsay evidence” that Saumya jumped off a train, instead of being pushed out by Govindaswamy.
“Even a student of law in a law college knows this elementary principle that hearsay evidence is inadmissible,” he wrote.
Known for making controversial statements, the former chairperson of the Press Council of India recently attacked the Chief Justice of India, TS Thakur, and retired chief justice RM Lodha for the verdict directing the Indian cricket board to implements administrative reforms.
The BCCI had asked Justice Katju to study the Lodha panel report and give his opinion.
Subsequently, the board accepted Justice Katju’s view and filed a review petition, but distanced itself from the former judge’s public utterances against the top court and Lodha.