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Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Ex-SC judge Markandey Katju to bat for fraudster Nirav Modi, how fair is that?

This is as unbelievable as it may sound, a veteran former Supreme Court judge will bat for Nirav Modi, a jewel smuggler and fraudster, in a UK court! Sounds unimaginable, isn’t it? But it’s true. In fresh developments related to the extradition of diamond merchant Nirav Modi, ex-SC judge Justice Markandey Katju is expected to depose before the Westminster Magistrate’s court today to make a case against Modi’s deportation. And in this article, we shall discuss the news, how fair is the move for an ex SC judge with great stature and dignity and whether this will create an impact on India’s common people’s faith in the judiciary.

Here’s the case of ex-SC judge Katju to bat for Nirav Modi in UK court explained in 6 points

1. So, what is the case all about?

For those who forgot or never heard of Nirav Modi, he is a key accused facing charges for a whole host of economic offences such as fraud and money laundering. Most notably, he has been named as a key accused in the Rs 13,000 crore Punjab National Bank scam. And our former SC judge Justice Katju will proceed to fight for him in a foreign court! Justice Katju was also Chief Justice of India.

2. What has Katju said and done so far?

Justice Katju has already submitted a written statement to the UK court and told Economic Times that he felt Nirav Modi is unlikely to get a free and fair trial in India! Can you believe that? This is what a former SC judge saying. Doesn’t this show that Justice Katju himself has less or no faith in the Indian judiciary despite working as the top SC judge for years? We wonder.

Justice Katju said the trial that had already convicted Modi. Katju also told LiveLaw that public comments made by Law Minister Ravishankar Prasad against Nirvan Modi where he has virtually declared the fugitive guilty indicate that an independent trial cannot take place in India. Can this be a reason enough for Justice Katju to bat for Nirav Modi in UK court? Why cannot Nirav tried in India for he’s an Indian and his alleged involvement in the crime caused damage to India’s economy and banking sector? Why cannot an ex-SC judge have faith in the Indian judicial system?

3. What will Justice Katju do?

Justice Katju will testify proceedings before London’s Westminster Magistrates’ Court tomorrow via video conferencing. He said that he will not speak before the court anything on the merits of the criminal case against Nirav Modi. A UK Court is currently holding a trial on the Indian government’s plea seeking the extradition of the diamond merchant. Justice Katju said that he will oppose the Indian government’s plea for extradition. Justice Katju alleged that the Indian judiciary is being subservient to the Narendra Modi government.

4. What does Katju’s past comments about varied issues say?

As per reports, Justice Katju is not new to being in the media glare himself. In a Facebook post in 2015, he had called Mahatma Gandhi a ‘British agent’, Rabindranath Tagore a ‘British stooge’ and Subhash Chandra Bose ‘an agent of Japanese fascist imperialists’. But he later apologised for his remarks and though he was dragged to court, the case was dismissed. Will he have to apologize again for fighting for Nirav Modi? We are yet to see that.

In September 2016, he posted disparaging remarks about Mother Teresa on a blog calling her a fanatic and a fraud. “‘Mother’ Teresa, Zakir Naik, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Pravin Togadia, Sadhvi Prachi, Adityanath, etc, are all different sides of the same coin — unscientific, feudal-minded religious fundamentalist and fanatic buffoons,” he wrote on the post that has since been taken down. Katju has also courted controversy for his comments on women. He got a lot of flak for suggesting Shazia Ilmi had better political prospects than Kiran Bedi because she was beautiful.

5. What is the present status of Nirav Modi and his case?

As per the latest reports, the prison conditions in India and Nirav Modi’s fragile mental health were in focus during the diamond merchant’s ongoing extradition hearing related to the Punjab National Bank (PNB) scam case at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on Wednesday. “The third day of the five-day hearing, presided over by Justice Samuel Goozee, was devoted to the defence laying out further arguments against a prima facie case of fraud and money laundering against Modi, who observed the court proceedings via live videolink from Wandsworth Prison in London where he has been lodged since his arrest in March last year,” says a report.

The 49-year-old jeweller seemed particularly still and inanimate through most of the day, with the judge at one point pausing the hearing to check if the videolink had frozen and asked Modi to keep moving from time to time so the court can be sure he is still connected to the proceedings. Nirav Modi’s defence team, led by barrister Clare Montgomery, raised further issues around the conditions at Barrack 12 at Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, where he is to be lodged on being extradited, claiming it is covered in its entirety in a blue metallic cover since it housed a terrorist in 2007. This makes the barrack “incredibly hot”, with other problems such as damp, dust, insects and rodents, she quoted testimony as saying. Also, fears related to Covid-19 pandemic were also highlighted.

6. Will Justice Katju’s move affect people’s faith in Indian judiciary?

We wonder what about the health of jailed Indian activists like Varavara Rao, Akhil Gogoi, Sharjeel Imam and others. They were also imprisoned for questioning the Centre’s policies and get all contracted Covid-19 while inside the damp, hot and overcrowded Indian prisons. While these activists just expressed their free thoughts and Nirav Modi cheated the Indians with his fraudulent means and fled with a huge sum of wealth, causing a major damage to the already weak Indian economy.

We question whether Justice Katju’s move is just? We are aware of prisoner’s human rights and all but this is crucial because Justice Katju is an individual who held the CJI’s post. What sort of message does his latest move give to India’s common people who are aware and convinced by Nirav Modi’s guilt? The matter is much tilted against Nirav Modi for his gravity of crime is so vast. We also wonder, whether Justice Katju’s decision to support Nirav Modi will pave way for people like Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksi or Dawood Ibrahim who India is trying for so long to be tried within its own territory. Now any senior judge can opt for supporting any of these men. Will that be a justice to the common people of India?

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