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Katju’s ‘Court of Last Resort’ NGO to free undertrials with Fali, Memon & Mahesh Bhat

Katju NGO, with “mandate of the people”, to be inaugurated on 15 April.
Katju NGO, with “mandate of the people”, to be inaugurated on 15 April.

Press Council of India (PCI) chairman and former Supreme Court judge Markandey Katju will launch a non-governmental organisation (NGO) dubbed “The Court of Last Resort”, which will aim to free India's undertrial prisoners.

Katju announced on his blog today that senior advocate Fali Nariman  will be chairman, Mumbai-based criminal lawyer Majeed Memon will be vice chairman. Filmmaker Mahesh Bhat “and others have agreed to be associated with us”, noted Katju on his blog.

“I have been asked from where we get the jurisdiction to set up this body?” Katju posted. “My answer is: we get our mandate from the people, who are supreme in a democracy.”

We will proceed slowly in setting up the Court of Last Resort (CLR). The headquarters will be in Delhi, but we propose to set up state units in every state. Most of the work of CLR will be done by the state units, with the centre at Delhi playing an overseeing role.

We will set up offices in Delhi and all states, where the complaints can be received. Tens of thousands of complaints will pour in in connection with people in jails (there is so much injustice in India), so we will need lots of volunteers, particularly from youth, academicians, lawyers, media, social activists, professionals, etc who will examine each complaint and send recommendations to the state unit which will then decide the course of action.

The NGO will be inaugurated at a press conference at Katju’s residence on 15 April at 430pm.

A high-vis retirement

Katju retired from the Supreme Court in September 2011 and has since attracted followers (currently 19,150 on Twitter and counting), as well as critics for his public statements, blogs and columns.

Topics have ranged from petitioning for the pardon of convicted film actor Sanjay Dutt, to the ire of the BJP party, comparing Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to Hitler, and, perhaps most infamously, calling 90 per cent of Indians “idiots”.

Katju has petitioned for the safety of individual journalists, but also attempted to increase the power of the PCI regulator and been in favour of introducing a mandatory qualification for journalists.

Tehelka’s Hindi edition last month published a feature about Katju’s personal life, despite Katju’s self-avowed refusal to be interviewed on personal matters. In his blog he wrote that the article:

“mentions about my work as a school teacher in a village for 2 years in the late 1960s (where my salary was Rs. 120 per month) after I obtained my law degree I never mentioned this to anyone, and had no intention to do so but what I learnt in the village was of immense use to me in later life as I came to know of the realities in rural India where over 70% of Indians live”

Previous stories on Legally India about Katju

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