New Delhi: BJP leader Arun Jaitley Sunday charged Press Council chairman Markandey Katju of partiality to the Congress and demanded he resign, drawing a strong retort from the former apex court judge who accused him of distorting facts and asked him to quit politics.
Jaitley said Katju “appears more Congress than the Congress party” and a person holding chair of Press Council must be impartial, while Katju responded by terming his statements “rubbish” and “personal attacks”.
Jaitley, who is leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha, accused Katju of attacking non-Congress governments in Bihar, Gujarat and West Bengal on the basis of “his political preferences”.
In an article on the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) website, Jaitley said Katju’s attacks “seem more in the nature of thanks-giving to those who provided him with a post-retirement job”.
He said Katju had over the past week released a draft report on behalf of the Press Council of India (PCI) alleging that the media in Bihar was not independent.
He followed it up with an article in an English daily attacking the Gujarat government and Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
“Though initially known for his scholarship, Justice Katju was never a conventional judge. His utterances, both during his tenure as a judge and thereafter, are clearly outlandish,” Jaitley said. “Dignified comment is alien to him.”
He contended that retired judges of the Supreme Court and high courts must not be eligible for government jobs, as in some cases it influences their “pre-retirement judicial conduct”.
“The chairman of the Press Council discharges a statutory job. His job requires fairness, impartiality and political neutrality.”
“Additionally, a judge, whether sitting or retired, is expected to conduct himself with sobriety, dignity and grace. He cannot be loud, crude, outlandish or behave like a megalomaniac,” he said.
“Justice Markandey Katju has failed every test on which a judge whether sitting or retired could be judged.”
Jaitley said Katju’s article in a newspaper against Modi reads more like a personal tirade and asked if he was trying to hold a brief for those who have been convicted in the Godhra train burning case.
“His (Katju’s) appeal is political. He appears to be more Congress than the Congress party,” he said.
Modi also tweeted in support of Jaitley, claiming that Justice Katju looked at Gujarat with a “jaundiced eye”.
“Justice Katju looks at Guj with a jaundiced eye. Jaitley ji’s insightful article demolishing lies spread about Guj,” he posted.
Reacting to Jaitley’s article, Katju told a TV channel that the BJP leader was talking “rubbish and nonsense”.
He said the BJP leader was “not cut out for politics” and alleged that he had “distorted” facts.
“He (Jaitley) should resign from politics,” Katju said, accusing Jaitley of stooping to a low level by “launching a personal attack” but said he would not do the same.
Countering Jaitley’s argument of targeting non-Congress chief ministers, Katju said he had written to Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan in November last year condemning the arrest of two girls from the state’s Palghar town for criticizing on Facebook the shutdown following Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s death.
He said he had also written to Congress leader Virbhadra Singh, now Himachal Pradesh chief minister, over his remarks to a cameraman during campaign in the state assembly polls.