For the first time in its history, the Supreme Court issued notice to its former judge, Justice Markandey Katju, for claiming that the top court “grievously erred” in setting aside the death sentence of a Kerala man accused of rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in 2011.
Katju made the comment to a Kerala TV channel and later put it up in his Facebook post.
Asking the office to register the Facebook post as a suo motu review petition of its September 15 verdict, the apex court bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Prafulla C. Pant and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit noted Justice Katju as saying that the “Supreme Court has grievously erred in law by not holding Govindaswamy guilty of murder.”
Justice Katju in his Facebook post took a critical view of the top court setting aside the death sentence of Govindaswamy. He differed with the court, which reasoned that it has not been proven that the accused had intention to kill, and therefore he cannot be held guilty of murder.
Taking a contrary view, Justice Katju in his Facebook post said, “What the Court has overlooked is that Section 300 IPC, which defines murder, has 4 parts, and only the first part requires intention to kill.”
He said, “If any of the other 3 parts are established, it will be murder even if there was no intention to kill. It is regrettable that the Court has not read Section 300 carefully.”
Justice Katju also said, “The judgment needs to be reviewed in an open court hearing.”
Saying that the views expressed by Justice Katju, a former judge of the top court, “needs to be treated with greatest of respect and consideration”, the court requested Justice Katju to appear in person on November 11 at 1400 hours and “participate in the proceedings as to whether the judgment and order dated 15th September, 2016, passed by this Bench a suffers from any fundamental flaw so as to require exercise of the review jurisdiction.”
The court order came on the conclusion of the hearing on Kerala government’s plea seeking recall of September 15 verdict by which Govindaswamy’s death sentence was set aside.
The top court on September 15 set aside the death sentence of the Kerala man accused of rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in 2011, exonerating him of murder charges but said he would undergo life imprisonment for rape.
Govindaswamy had been convicted and sentenced to death by a trial court, and the sentence was confirmed by the Kerala High Court.
Govindaswamy had raped and murdered the woman when she was travelling by train from Ernakulam to Shornur on February 1, 2011, to attend her betrothal ceremony the following day.