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Markandey Katju gets contempt notice for criticising SC's verdict on Kochi woman's rape and murder

The apex court bench said the former justice had made personal remarks against those who had pronounced the judgment and not just passed an opinion on it.

The Supreme Court on Friday issued a contempt notice to one of its former judges Markandey Katju for his comments against its verdict on the rape and murder of a woman in Kochi. After the bench led by Justice J Ranjan Gogoi issued the notice, Katju said, “Don’t give me threats, Mr Gogoi. Don’t try to be funny with me,” after which he was asked to be escorted out of the courtroom.

Katju and Attornet General Mukul Rohatgi were handed photocopies of the post on the verdict that the former justice had shared on Facebook. They contained a few highlighted portions, which Rohatgi said were “scandalous”, while Katju retorted with “this is a free country”. Gogoi then said they were holding him in contempt of court as the underlined portions were personal remarks against the judges who had pronounced the ruling and not merely an opinion on the judgment, according to The Hindu.

The former Supreme Court justice was summoned there on Friday to discuss what he believed were “fundamental flaws” in its September 15 ruling that commuted the death sentence awarded to Govindachamy, who was convicted in the case, giving him seven years in prison. The Supreme Court had dropped the murder charges against him but had held him guilty of the rape of the 24-year-old woman in February 2011. Justices Ranjan Gogoi and UU Lalit had later said, “Let him come to the court, and let’s debate over the fundamental flaws in our verdict.”

In his Facebook post, Katju had argued that the Supreme Court had erroneously dropped the murder charges against Govindachamy. He had also accused the apex court of taking into consideration “hearsay evidence, which is inadmissible” in the court of law.

Govindachamy was given the death sentence by a fast-track court in Thrissur. The Kerala High Court had upheld the ruling awarding him capital punishment in January 2014.

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