Argumentative Indians

I find the Arun Jaitley-Markandey Katju spat hugely interesting for it has added value to the ongoing democratic discourse.

For a dispassionate view, I’d like to know what the JD (U) has to say on the Press Council of India’s chairman’s impressions of Narendra Modi?

Or what’s the Bihar-based journalists’ take on the state of press freedom in the province ruled jointly by the BJP and the JD (U)?

For that might seem a pro-Katju stance, may I ask the retired Supreme Court judge to be more discreet than valorous in his pronouncements.

He’s given to flying off the handle in the middle of fairly decent expositions at public functions.

He’s at once a builder and a destroyer of robust bipartisan arguments. He’d do a lot of good to the PCI if he were to stick to being a constructive contributor to popular discourse.

Inclined though he may be towards the Congress, Katju indeed has been taking potshots at governments of all hue in defense of a free press in particular and free speech in general. But it is wrong to assume that he alone calls the shots in the PCI.

The watchdog body comprises working journalists and most reports that it makes are essentially their work, be it threats to journalists or the scourge of paid news.

But there are occasions when their conclusions are based on shoddy groundwork and questionable evidence, as we at the Hindustan Times recently found to our dismay in a PCI order.

One therefore must question the PCI on facts, not because its findings go against a government run by parties that are in Opposition at the Centre.

I’m afraid I do not agree with Jaitley when he takes exception to Katju’s article on Modi in The Hindu. The BJP leader himself is a constitutional functionary as Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

But has that prevented him from criticizing Supreme Court judgments— including those relating to Gujarat— in signed articles?

I as much support Jaitley’s right to disagree with the PCI chief or critically analyze court orders, as Katju’ prerogative to have a view on the Gujarat CM.

Now that Modi’s emerging as a contender for the PM’s slot, he should be placed under the scanner by peer groups and the media to let people know whether he’ll make a good alternative?

If we can have speaking judges, speaking election commissioners and a speaking comptroller and auditor general, where then is the harm in having a speaking PCI chief.

Thinking people must speak up, no matter where they are. That alone will make the public debate variegated and inclusive. India cannot afford a one-sided discourse, not at least on communalism and press freedom.

Stay put wherever you are Messrs Jaitley and Katju. But keep arguing.

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