Supreme Court justice Markandey Katju delivered a judgment in 2009 while dismissing a case of “medical negligence” in Martin D’Souza v. Mohd. Ishfaq (2009 SCC 3, 1) that has since been used extensively by the lower courts across India for rejection of complaints against doctors. Justice Katju (and his associate justice) stipulated in this judgment that in order to establish a case against doctors, the alleged victim of “medical negligence” must obtain medical experts’ opinions from at least two physicians. This has made virtually impossible for the ordinary people to fight cases of medical negligence under the prevailing condition in India where doctors are unwilling to testify against their errant medical colleagues. Ironically, a different bench of the Apex Court severely criticized the observations made by Justice Katju in a later decision in V. Kishan Rao v. Nikhil Super Specialty Hospital (2010 SCC 5, 513) and opined that the views expressed in Martin D’Souza (Supra.) cannot be binding for all cases of “medical negligence”.
Justice Katju has recently retired from the Supreme Court and became the chairman of the Press Council of India (PCI). He has started slamming Indian media for publishing substandard and bogus stories in his opening speech as the PCI chairman. He also suggested that there should be restrictions on freedom of speech. He has further proposed to impose penalty against the media for publishing bad news reports. After Mail Today and other news organizations reported Katju’s outburst against the media, he has decided to attack the paper and demanded an apology from Mail Today through a personal letter (see below Justice Katju’s letter along with a relevant letter from PBT president). While Indian media may not be beyond all criticisms, they have by and large played a constructive role in the fight against social evils like “corruption” and “medical negligence”. Rather than attacking the members of the press, the newly appointed PCI chief may serve the country better in his post-retirement phase by helping the hapless victims who have been struggling to find justice in a legal system which is stacked against the ordinary citizens.