Justice Katju Is Wrong. Here Is Why

27/12/2014 1:56 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:24 AM IST
MANJUNATH KIRAN via Getty Images
An Indian LGBT activist holds a placard during a demonstration against the Supreme Court's reinstatement of Section 377, which bans gay sex in a law dating from India's colonial era, in Bangalore on January 28, 2014. India's top court January 28 rejected a plea filed by the government and activist groups to review its shock ruling which reinstated a colonial-era ban on gay sex. AFP PHOTO/Manjunath KIRAN (Photo credit should read Manjunath Kiran/AFP/Getty Images)

Mr Katju has done it again. In his position as a former Chairman of the Press Council of India, he commands enough influence to have any of his utterances discussed threadbare in the media. It was he who told us that as many as 90 per cent of Indians are idiots, and it was he who shone a light on corruption in the judiciary earlier this year by speaking of events during his tenure as a judge. More on that later.

This time he has trained his guns on homosexuals. In a blog post published on December 26, Mr Katju decries gay relationships by citing a series of eminences. He starts with George Bernard Shaw, and I quote:

According to Bernard Shaw, there is a powerful law of nature among all living creatures, that while the individuals will one day die, the species must continue. Thus, the human species must continue, while the individual human beings will die.

This law of nature creates The Life Force, which can be stated as the driving force which ensures that life continues on earth. This Life Force creates a powerful urge in humans to reproduce, and the main role in this is that of the woman. It is she who has to conceive the child, keep the child in her womb for nine months, give birth to the child, then rear the child for several years.

To fulfill this role of nature, a woman has to get hold of a man, not merely to make her pregnant, but also to look after her and provide for her financially while she is performing this role.

Hence, according to Shaw, it is not men who pursue women, but women who pursue men. It is the Life Force which drives women to pursue and catch a mate, who will then look after her while she is performing nature's serious and vital function of continuing the species. Women who remain single are prone to have psychological problems.

Analyse this argument. Mr Katju, in one stroke, has reduced all relationships to a certain determinism that places men and women in their pre-ordained sexual roles. By quoting Shaw, and later referencing Glenn Close from Fatal Attraction, he would have us believe that gay relationships are "humbug and nonsense". The life force that Mr Katju is so enamoured of should prevent, in his view, a recognition of gay marriage since that would, by definition, not lead to procreation.

When I came out, I knew that I would have to battle a lifetime of ignorance and bias, but I also knew that I needed to be particularly watchful of the bias of the ostensibly learned man. Each of the arguments Mr Katju makes looks scientific and, on that basis alone, is considered insuperable in his book. (Never mind that he is yet to provide a scientific basis for his "90 percent Indians idiots" claim.)

So let's look at his latest rant from a scientific angle. Some scientists claim that homosexuality may serve an evolutionary purpose--of keeping the population in check. If homosexuality were a freak of nature, as Mr Katju seems to think, it would have been wiped out because homosexuals do not procreate and do not pass their genes to the next generation. Since that has not happened and statistics variously indicate homosexuals to make close to 10 per cent of the population, it is possible that there is an evolutionary basis for homosexuality.

There. But that is not half of my problem with Mr Katju. He has served as a judge of the Supreme Court and it is to people such as him that we look up to solve the most pressing legal and social problems of the day. I balk at what might have been the content of the judgment if Mr Katju had been on the SC bench that last year overturned the Delhi High Court order of 2009 decriminalising homosexuality. He would have turned the courtroom into a bully pulpit.

Maybe homosexuality has an evolutionary basis, maybe not. Who cares? The truth is we are here and we are here to stay. When the SC deemed us a "minuscule minority" in its judgment last year, it not only went against the factual reality on the ground, but subverted the very essence of justice--to protect and cherish regardless of numbers. Now Mr Katju has gone one up. In such a climate, what hope for gay people from the system?

There is also this. As a writer I prefer not to write about such background noise. I think it debases me, to constantly argue for my rightful place in the scheme of things. I would much rather write about what being gay means--its tremendous joys and surprising pitfalls. But every once in a while someone comes along, a man of some authority or privilege, who makes me put on my boxing gloves and want to go for the jugular.

In August this year, Mr Katju raised the banner of revolt against one Justice Ashok Kumar about whom he had supposedly written to three CJIs, to no effect. The corruption charges against Justice Kumar went back a decade but Mr Katju had chosen to come out only now with his accusations. When asked about this, he repeatedly claimed that he was bound to the oath of secrecy he had taken as a judge, but now retired, was free to come out with the "truth".

Mr Katju, ironically since he has been such an integral part of the judicial system, seems to plump for the letter rather than the spirit of the law. And he does not suffer criticism. When Soli Sorabjee and Ram Jethmalani raised questions about the timing of the complaint against Justice Ashok Kumar in a news debate, Mr Katju shouted them down and demanded an apology. More recently, he has asked readers of his blog who disagree with him not to visit or comment on the blog, or else they would be blocked.

So, yes, in spite of my self-avowed promise not to take on bigots, I want to answer Mr Katju. I want to pick apart his argument and stress how ignorant he sounds when he reduces homosexuality to the procreation/species continuation claim. I want to call into question the very premise of a debate that relies on science to answer what is essentially a non-scientific issue? Whatever evolution's role in homosexuality, I refuse to be a mere cog, stripped of his humanity, in this debate. I do worry though when a former SC judge and Press Council Chairman dresses his prejudice in literary attire.

More On This Topic