Justice Karnan vs Supreme Court: saga of a defiant judge

Supreme Court issues bailable warrants against Justice Karnan

Justice C.S. Karnan  

A seven-judge Bench, comprising the seniormost judges of the Supreme Court, issued a bailable warrant against sitting Calcutta HC judge C.S. Karnan to secure his presence in the Supreme Court on March 31 in a suo motu contempt case against him for denigrating the judicial institution.

The Bench, led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar, on Friday directed the Director General of Police, West Bengal, to personally serve the warrant on Justice Karnan. Justices Misra, J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur, P.C. Ghose and Kurian Joseph are the others on the Bench.

Later, addressing a press conference at his residence in Kolkata, Justice Karnan said that “it is [the Supreme Court’s order] a motivated, ridiculous and illegal order.” He urged the President to “recall the bailable warrant” and directed Secretaries-General of both Houses of Parliament to place the facts before the Speaker for a thorough probe.

‘Targeted for being SC’

He alleged that he was being targeted by the Supreme Court because he belongs to a Scheduled Caste community. Justice Karnan also directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to initiate a probe against the seven Supreme Court judges, including Chief Justice Khehar.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, Justice Karnan had allegedly accused several sitting and retired High Court and Supreme Court judges of corruption.

Chief Justice Khehar informed Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi that Justice Karnan had sent a fax message to the Supreme Court Registry on March 8, seeking a meeting with the CJI and other Supreme Court judges.

In its order issuing the warrant, the Bench said this fax message did not qualify as a response to the contempt notice issued to him.

The Bench said that despite almost a month being given to him, Justice Karnan did not deem it necessary to enter appearance personally or through a counsel before the Supreme Court in response to the contempt notice.

“The letter dated March 8, 2017, cannot be treated as a response by Justice C.S. Karnan. In view of the above position in the matter, we seek the presence of Justice C.S. Karnan by issuing bailable warrant with the sum of ₹10,000 in the nature of a personal bond to the satisfaction of the arresting officer,” the Bench ordered.

During the hearing in the Supreme Court, Mr. Rohatgi submitted that there are reports that an order has been passed by Justice Karnan admitting a petition filed by a lawyer in the Calcutta HC seeking enquiry into the allegations in the suicide note of former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Kalikho Pul.

The August 2016 note of Pul had made corruption allegations against sitting Supreme Court and HC judges.

In the said order, Mr. Rohatgi submitted that Justice Karnan had agreed with the petitioner-lawyer that the seven-judge Bench’s decision to strip him of judicial and administrative powers in the light of the contempt proceedings was void.

Mr. Rohatgi submitted that he had enquired with the Registrar of the Calcutta HC, who though confirming reports about the existence of such an order nevertheless denied seeing it.

The AG said the order in question remains unsigned.

Chief Justice Khehar at one point dismissed such reports of an order by Justice Karnan as a “prank.”

In the last hearing on February 13, the Supreme Court had briefly toyed with the option of issuing a bailable warrant against Justice Karnan, but chose to wait for another three weeks for the judge to explain his defiance of a judicial direction to be present in court.

The seven-judge Bench said that Justice Karnan had not indicated a reason for his non-appearance in a letter he wrote to the Registrar General of the Supreme Court on February 10 after contempt notice was issued against him on February 8. Nor did the judge deem it necessary to file any application in the criminal contempt case against him.

Last month the Supreme Court issued a contempt of court notice against Justice Karnan for allegedly degrading the judicial institution.

Supreme Court issues bailable warrants against Justice Karnan

‘Scurrilous letters’

A seven-judge Bench led by the Chief Justice Khehar heard Mr. Rohatgi who said that Justice Karnan should face contempt proceedings for his “scurrilous” letters against sitting and retired High Court and Supreme Court judges.

Challenging the contempt notice Justice Karnan alleged that the notice was issued against him because he belongs to the SC community. In the “writ order” issued by him he argued that no contempt proceedings can be initiated against a sitting High Court judge.

Justice Karnan argued, “no contempt either civil or criminal can be initiated against a sitting High Court Judge under Sections 2 (c), 12 and 14 of the Contempt of Courts Act or under Article 20 of the Constitution of India.”

As for the Supreme Court asking him to appear before it on March 31, he hinted that he will not appear before it as he had not done anything illegal.

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Printable version | Jan 16, 2022 4:50:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/sc-issues-bailable-warrant-against-justice-karnan/article17440526.ece

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