New Delhi: Congress leader Digvijay Singh today hit out at BJP leader Arun Jaitley for his criticism of Press Council of India Chief Markandey Katju over Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, calling it "unncessary and outlandish".
In a statement, Singh expressed surprise at Jaitley's attack on the former Supreme Court judge, saying that what Katju had stated in his newspaper article on development in Gujarat are based on facts from authoritative sources in the public domain.
"I am very surprised to read totally unnecessary and outlandish statement of Arun Jaitley against Justice Markandey Katju," Singh said in the statement to PTI.
"Is it wrong on the part of the Chairman of Press Council to question the issue of Paid News in Gujrat,? he asked.
Justice Katju is one of the very eminent Judges of Indian Judiciary who has always called "a Spade a Spade", he said.
"Post retirement he has been writing on different current issues in a most forthright manner without any kind of bias against any one," the AICC General Secretary added.
Jaitley and Katju were today locked in a bitter war of words over the latter's article critical of Modi with the two asking each other to resign.
Jaitley dubbed Katju as "more Congress than the Congress" and said his attacks on non-Congress governments whether in West Bengal, Bihar or Gujarat seem more in the nature of "thanks-giving" to those who provided him with a post- retirement job." He demanded that Katju resign from his post.
The Press Council of India Chief hit back at Jaitley accusing him of twisting facts and asked him to quit politics.
Singh said that the Leader of the Opposition was "repaying the debt" to Modi for giving him a seat in Rajya Sabha.
"Shouldn't he (Katju) question the non appointment of Lok Ayukt in Gujarat ? Isn't it a fact that the government of Gujarat has gone out of its way to stop appointment of Lok Ayukt?... Can Modi be absolved of the responsibility of the genocide in Gujarat ?... When a person runs out of argument he seeks refuge in abuse. Jaitley owes his seat in Rajya Sabha to Modi. Shouldn't he repay the debt ?" the Congress general secretary said in a statement to PTI late tonight.
Singh said though Jaitley has criticised appointment of retired judges but "he conveniently forgets that as a law minister he had himself made post retirement appointments of judges with known leanings towards BJP."
Asserting that justice Katju cannot be criticised for favouring any one, Singh said that on number of occasions the judge's views have been critical of the present government in Delhi and Congress-led state governments.
"Most recent case is that of his criticism of arrest and harassment of Iftekhar Geelani," Singh said.
Posing several questions, Singh asked, "Isn't it a fact that the number of poor people in Gujarat has increased ? Isn't it a fact that the number malnourished children has increased in Gujarat? Isn't it a fact that the maternal mortality rate in Gujarat has increased ? Is giving concessions to corporates the only indicator of development ?
Singh said that as regards the report against the Bihar government about suppressing Press Freedom, that is "not his report but that of a Fact Finding Team" consisting of three members of the Press Council. Moreover, the report is supported with detailed documents.