The Hindu’s readers reveal Katju’s infinite bluff

4 September 2012

The chairman of the press council of India, Justice Markandey Katju, wrote an article in The Hindu on September 3 on education.

Titled ‘Professor, heal thyself’, it contained this paragraph:

The level of intellect of many teachers is low, because many of them have not been appointed on merit but on extraneous considerations. To give an example, when I was a judge of Allahabad High Court I had a case relating to a service matter of a mathematics lecturer in a university in Uttar Pradesh.

Since the teacher was present in court I asked him how much one divided by zero is equal to.

He replied, “Infinity.”

I told him that his answer was incorrect, and it was evident that he was not even fit to be a teacher in an intermediate college. I wondered how had he become a university lecturer (In mathematics it is impermissible to divide by zero. Hence anything divided by zero is known as an indeterminate number, not infinity).

Not surprisingly, two wise readers of The Hindu have corrected the press council chief through letters to the editor:

In his article “Professor, teach thyself” (Sept. 3), chairman of the Press Council of India, Markandey Katju, has cited an incident that took place when he was a judge of the Allahabad High Court. He says he chided a mathematics lecturer, whose case he was hearing, and told him that he was not fit to be even a teacher because he (the lecturer) said one divided by zero was infinity.

Justice Katju claims that anything divided by zero is indeterminate. He is wrong and the lecturer was right because any non-zero number divided by zero is infinity. It is zero divided by zero that is indeterminate.

While I can understand the plight of the poor lecturer who did not have the courage to correct the judge hearing his case, I am appalled at the timidity of “some of the top senior academicians” of Jawaharlal Nehru University, to whom Justice Katju narrated the incident. I wonder why they let his fallacy pass unchallenged. Justice Katju must seek out the mathematics lecturer and apologise to him.

Kanan Vihari Jaswal, Noida

I would like to digress from the primary point made in the article — with which I completely agree — and talk about the mathematics lecturer’s answer. “Infinity” is indeed the correct answer to the question posed by Justice Katju to the lecturer. 0/0 is indeterminate because it can take multiple values depending on the limit being calculated (for example 2x/x; x->0 is 2 , 5x/x; x->0 is 5) whereas any finite number divided by 0 (eg 1/0) is an impermissible operation, which is just another way of saying that the result is infinite (an absurdly large number).

Siddharth Tiwari, Kanpur


Also read: ‘I have a poor opinion of most media people’

Editors’ Guild of India takes on Press Council chief

8 Responses to “The Hindu’s readers reveal Katju’s infinite bluff”

  1. Mahesh Vijapurkar Says:

    Less a person speaks, wiser he appears. This applies especially to Markhandeya Katju who thought he knew his math better.

  2. Apar Says:

    and we have new 0 loss theory

  3. Sorry, incorrect… kindly google this. The answers will surprise you; as per latest mathematical theory, 1/0 might well be undefined. Seems to me that Justice Katju knows a little bit more than us…. I found loads of sites with explanations….

  4. S Krishna Kumar Says:

    There seems to exist a singular bonhomie between The Hindu and Katju. He writes often for The Hindu, and The Hindu alone.

    I have some doubts.

    1. Does The Hindu pays Katju for his works? What is the rate of pay? Does The HIndu pay at the usual rate? Or, does it have a special rate for Katju?

    2.If a case against The HIndu comes up before Press Council, shall we expect Katju to be impartial? Or, will he recuse himself from the case? Do we have to believe that the editor of The Hindu will not try to influence Katju in such a situation? After all there is a famous saying ‘One Who Pays the Piper Calls the Tunes’.

    3.Mr. Katju has been a trenchant critic of Anna Hazare and Baba Ramdev. His hatred for them is well known. Suppose, Baba or Anna goes to the Press Council with some complaints. Can they believe that Katju will be impartial?

    4. On the 12th August 2012, Katju wrote a story on the Open Page of The Hindu. “The Swami and the Amogh Astra”. I won’t go into the literary merits of the story, because it is quite subjective. But the story was a thinly veiled spoof on Baba Ramdev. Imagine Baba files a complaint against Katju and The Hindu before the Press Council about that story ( For a moment, let us forget the legal merits of such a case). What will Katju do?

    The basic dictum of jurisprudence is ‘ Not only justice must be done; it must also be seen to be done’. Strangely, Katju, a retired judge of Indian Supreme Court, seems to be unaware of the dictum.

    • Sam Says:

      Let me clear those doubt:

      1. No.
      Not Applicable (see previous answer).
      Not Applicable (see previous answer).
      Not Applicable (see previous answer).

      2. Yes.
      If they make good arguments that he should recuse himself, he will.
      ‘We’ can believe anything we want.

      3. Yes.
      4. Baba might want to forget / ignore the legal merits, but a former supreme court judge sure wont.

      (Do you see the pointlessness of your questions and my answers?)

  5. joe Says:

    Mathematically division by zero is impossible so your answer is officially undefined.

    Then there is the wonderful world of Calculus where one of the first techniques you learn are limits. By using the techniques defined in calculus you can state that as the denominator approaches zero the quotient approaches infinity. The key words here being approaches. Because even in Calculus you can’t divide by zero or reach infinity.

  6. greyhame Says:

    Yes churmuri, you should drop this article. The answer is sure not infinity.

    And comments to an article by a person you despise, should not become stories by themselves.

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