Supreme Court lawyer Alakh Alok Srivastava has written a letter to Attorney General KK Venugopal, accusing former top court judge, Justice Markandey Katju, for his ‘extremely contemptuous’ remarks in the Nirav Modi extradition case. He also sought AG’s consent to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against Katju.
“I have submitted a letter to Ld. Attorney General for India seeking consent to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against Justice (Retd.) Markandey Katju for his extremely contemptuous remarks made in the Nirav Modi Extradition case,” Srivastava, an Advocate-on-Record with the apex court, tweeted on Wednesday.
In the letter, dated March 1, 2021, Srivastava noted that the request was being made under Section 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act, 1971, read with Rule 3 (c) of the Rules to regulate proceedings for Contempt of the Supreme Court of India, 1975. He then recalled observations made by the UK judge on Katju’s testimony in connection with the case.
On February 25, while clearing Modi’s extradition to India over the multi-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam case, the District Judge at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Sam Gooze, observed that Katju’s testimony ‘was not reliable’ and had ‘hallmarks of an outspoken critic with his own personal agenda.’ Katju deposed as a witness for Modi in September 2020, arguing that the fugitive jeweller ‘would not receive a fair trial in India’ and that he was a ‘scapegoat being blamed for a financial crisis in India.’
Srivastava further wrote in his letter that the UK court’s judgement categorically noted that the day before the ‘contemptuous’ remark, Justice Katju also gave an ‘elaborate’ press commentary about it to the media. This, as per Srivastava, amounts to Katju ‘deliberately and willfully scandalising’ the Supreme Court and lowering its authority, not just in front of the UK court, but also in front of the public at large.
He added that these statements can ‘undermine the dignity and authority’ of the Supreme Court, and also recalled an instance from 2016 when the court issued a Contempt Notice against the former judge for a ‘contemptuous’ Facebook post. Srivastava added that in this case too, there was a criminal contempt of the Supreme Court, also citing the example of the recent Prashant Bhushan case, and finally sought Venugopal’s nod to initiate criminal contempt proceedings against Justice Katju.
Nirav Modi’s case will next be taken to British home secretary Preeti Patel. If Patel also gives her nod, Modi will be extradited to India and lodged at Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail.