We interviewed Markandey Katju, former judge of the Supreme Court and former chairman, Press Council of India, who’d visited IIT Bombay yesterday as part of Mood Indigo 2015. He spoke on his views on the collapse of the judicial system in the country and why he feels that the country is headed for a revolution. Besides this, he gave his views on justice, the country’s politicians, IIT students, and the decriminalization of homosexuality.
Correspondents: Mihir Kulkarni, Sandeep Upadhyay
Cinematography: Vikas Kurapati
Editing: Kumar Yashaswi
Transcription: Shreeyesh Menon, Shreya Sridhar
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Chief Editors: Mihir Kulkarni, Niranjan Thakurdesai
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Mihir: What guiding principles do you use when making judgements in the court? And more particularly, for India, what system of justice do you think is better, a distributive system or a more utilitarian system or a mixture of the two?
MK: See, first of all, what do we understand by the word “justice”? In my opinion, justice is not what is done in law-courts. Justice means, giving everybody a decent life, a proper job, education, health care for children, proper nutritious food… this is justice. What happens in courts is merely formality. For example, if a landlord files an eviction suit against a tenant, even if it is decreed, it just means that the tenant will be thrown out and the landlord will come in, but the housing problem is not being solved. There should be houses for both. So, this present system, I don’t regard it justice at all. Justice means, giving decent lives to the people.
Sandeep: A large portion of us are woefully unaware of the legal matters, what is legal, what is illegal. So what do you think an average citizen can do for himself to make himself/herself more aware.
MK: So, first of all, law just like engineering, it’s a specialised field. You can’t be specialist in every field. Either you become a lawyer, join a law course, pick up the legal principles. Some vague idea you can have, but not detailed idea. Broad ideas about your rights, about your freedom of speech, liberty, equality etc. Further, you need to be in legal practice.
Mihir: Sir, the government has been trying to push for the NJAC (National Judicial Appointment Commission) and the supreme court has had opposition to that. So, first question, what is your stand on the collegium vs NJAC debate? The court has also asked for suggestions to improve the collegium system, so what are your views on this?
MK: My view is that the judiciary has collapsed, beyond redemption, whether it is the collegium system or the Judicial Appointment Commission or anything. It hardly matters because judiciary has collapsed in this country. It takes 25-30 years to decide a case finally. What kind of judiciary is this? It’s a joke. Who can wait for 25 years to get his case decided? And then a large section of judiciary has become corrupt. So whatever system you have, it can’t make a difference for the common man. A common man cannot get justice. So costly also. As regards the system of appointment, see, whatever system you have, it all depends on, who are the people manning that system? Unless they are first class people, that system will be an empty shell. For example, in the High Courts, you have beautiful buildings, beautiful lawns and beautiful curtains, but the judges inside are taking bribes. So it is an empty shell, so whatever system, whether collegium system or NJAC or any system unless the person who are manning that system are first-class people, it will not give good judges.
Sandeep: Sir, the political discourse in India has been very naive, and it has been largely based on hero worship, as you said in there.For example, if someone is debating, say BJP vs AAP kind of a debate, it turns into Modi vs Kejriwal very quickly. So what do you think needs to happen so that this discourse is more mature and it is based on ground-realities.
I have already said in my speech today, that the country is heading for a revolution. You cannot reform this system, it is beyond redemption. All these politicians are rogues and rascals. Of all parties, who deserve to be hanged, shot. They are gundas. They have no genuine love for the country. And in fact, their interest is directly opposite to the country’s interest. Because their interest is to win elections and elections are conducted on the basis of cast and religion. Caste and religion are feudal forces, so they have to appeal to feudal forces. But the national interest requires destruction of feudal forces so that the country can move forward. And rapidly industrialize and science is spread all over India. So the interest of the politicians is just the opposite of the interest of the nation. So how can the country progress if these chaps are at the helm of affairs. There has to be a revolution.
Mihir: Sir, with regards to judges in higher courts being appointed to executive positions, for example, P. Sathasivam who was appointed as the Governor of Kerala- Do you think this system curbs judicial independence in some way?
MK: I have already said that it is immaterial whether it curbs judicial independence or does not curb it, because the system has collapsed. How does it matter whether you appoint A, X.. Now you have not Sathasivam, but some person in Arunachal Pradesh. There is a big controversy going on because whichever party comes to power they appoint their men as governors to control the State. So, whether it’s Sathasivam or whoever it is there, these questions are immaterial now. The point is that the system has collapsed. See, the main problems of the people are massive poverty, unemployment, health care, price rise, malnutrition, farmer suicides and all. These are the real problems not the appointment of the Governor- who will be Governor. How does it matter to the public. Will it reduce the unemployment? Whether Sathasivam is there or some X,Y,Z is there. These questions are all irrelevant. Now, with the growing crisis, see the rise in prices. Dal is selling at Rs. 200 a kilo. How are these things relevant?
Sandeep: Sir, homosexuality is still a criminal offence. Right now, in the parliament there is push, primarily headed by Shashi Tharoor, to decriminalize it. My question is will society accept this?
MK: See, I don’t know whether society accept it. I’ve never bothered about society because society consists of mostly idiots. I’m not bothered about that. I myself believe that it should be decriminalized. Section 377 should be deleted by the Parliament or struck down by the court. The should be freedom in this respect. At the same time, I think this is not such a big issue where such a hue and cry is being created about. The real issues are unemployment, poverty, price rise, malnutrition… See, when you cannot solve the real issues, you divert the attention of people from these real issues by saying- “No, the real issues are not unemployment or hunger or price rise. The real issue is gay rights.” This is deliberate diversion from the real issues.
Mihir: Sir, the final question- students at IITs were often accused of, you know, using the benefits we get, and working in other countries. The counter-argument to this is that we never entered a contract where we need to pay back; it’s a privilege that’s been bestowed on us although, we’ve been funded by tax payer’s money. So, my question is, what do you think of this issue? And do you think there should be some legal provision in place to enforce people like us (in IITs) to pay back to the country? For example, what they do with medical students.
MK: Listen, first of all, I regard most of you IIT students as thoroughly selfish. You have no genuine love for the country. You may talk big, you may talk whatever you like, but the truth is you want a comfortable job or you want to go to America to do your Master’s degree and then settle down there. That is what most of you do. You have no genuine love for the country. You see, the game is that, education is very cheap here in India; if the amount spent on your education had to be paid in America (there, higher education is very expensive), Americans would have had to pay 50 times more. So, by paying [a] pittance, they are getting our best brains and serving there in America. You will not serve India. You are going to serve America. I’m absolutely sure about it. So, please don’t have any illusion and I don’t have any illusion about you. You people, you’re not Indians. I don’t regard you as Indians. An Indian is one who thinks about India. You don’t. You may talk anything. You think about doing a
Mihir: Thank you for the interview, sir.