His oft-repeated words - "This is not a law college and I am not here to teach law" - sum up what Justice Markandey Katju, one of the most litigant-friendly judges, is all about. In the absence of any law, the bench headed by him legalised passive euthanasia. In the past, he had strongly condemned judicial adventurism and straying into the domains of the legislature and executive. Though his euthanasia judgement is seen as just that, critics admit that the ruling was much needed, especially for cases where terminally ill patients are suffering.
Justice Katju, an avid reader, delivers quick verdicts and often invokes well-known poets such as Ghalib in his orders. He along with his colleague had recently upheld the death sentence of Surinder Koli in the Nithari killings within 90 minutes. No advocate, howsoever senior, cannot escape the sharp scrutiny of this judge.
His recent judgment that a mere membership of a banned organisation is not illegal hasn't gone down well with the government. Unperturbed by criticism, he went a step ahead to say if the law of the land declared such membership a crime, then courts would be forced to hold it unconstitutional citing international judgments.
Some of his observations and rulings have caught the attention of legal and civil fraternities. But, remarks like rakhel and "one-night stand" in a ruling on the maintenance for women in live-in relationships drew criticism. That did not stop him from dismissing a review petition seeking deletion of the word "keep" from his judgment.