Who Is Markandey Katju?
Justice Markandey Katju is the former Chairman, Press Council of India. Prior to his appointment as Chairman, Press Council of India, he served as a Judge at the Supreme Court of India. Before being elevated as a judge to the Supreme Court, he had earlier served as the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, Madras High Court, and as acting Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court.
Markandey Katju was born on 20 September 1946 in Lucknow, British India, in a Kashmiri Pandit family. He topped the merit list of the Allahabad University’s LL.B. examination in 1967. He was awarded Honoris Causa a Doctor of Philosophy from Lal Bahadur Shastri Sanskrit University, New Delhi, for his book Mimansa Rules of Interpretation, and a Doctorate of Law from Amity University.
He is an Honorary Professor of Law at the National Law University, Delhi and Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia National Law University, Lucknow. Katju’s background is related to law and politics.
His father was S. N. Katju, formerly a Judge of the Allahabad High Court. His grandfather Dr. Kailash Nath Katju, was one of India’s leading lawyers and participated in the country’s freedom movement. Dr. K. N. Katju was the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, the Governor of West Bengal and Odisha, as well as the Union Law, Home and Defence Minister.
Katju’s uncle was B.N. Katju, the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court. The academic Tilottama Mukherji Tharoor, first wife of Shashi Tharoor, is a cousin to Katju. Her mother was the sister of Katju’s father.
Katju is married to Rupa and has two children, a son and a daughter. He has a wide range of interests, including Sanskrit, Urdu, history, philosophy, science, and sociology, aside from his interest in jurisprudence.
Katju started his law practice at the Allahabad High Court in 1970-91 specializing in Labour Law, Taxation and Writ Petitions. He has worked as Standing Counsel, Income Tax Department. He was elevated to the Bench of Allahabad High Court in 1991. He was appointed acting Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court in August 2004, Chief Justice of Madras High Court in November 2004, and Chief Justice of Delhi High Court in October 2005. He was elevated to the Supreme Court of India in April 2006. He retired from this position on 19 September 2011, after serving the Indian judiciary for 20 years.
His courtroom was one of the fastest in the Supreme Court disposing off 100-plus matters in a week. He is variously described as “brilliant”, “bold”, “one of the best”, “a maverick”. His strong belief in judicial restraint has been contrasted with some unconventional opinions he delivered. The contradiction may be partly explained in his own words: “A judge should restrain from challenging policy decisions in economic matters by the Government, though be an activist in cases of personal liberty.”
Katju has served as a Member, International Association of Refugee Law Judges (IARIJ). Former Assistant Solicitor General of India Amarendra Sharan has praised Katju. Sharan says on Katju,”You can criticise his views, but you can’t criticise the man. His integrity is unimpeachable.”
The noted jurist Fali Nariman commented that Katju is a person who doesn’t merely pretend to support human rights but lives it every moment of his life. The former editor of The Times of India, Dilip Padgaonkar, has said that Katju is “an individual whose reputation for uprightness has been consistently above board.”