SC Strips HC Judge Karnan of All Work
Karnan asked to appear in court on February 13
New Delhi: In a rare event in the annals of judicial history, a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday stripped sitting Calcutta High Court judge C S Karnan of all judicial and administrative work, and asked him to personally appear in court on February 13 to explain why contempt action should not be initiated against him for his improper conduct and his intemperate remarks. A bench comprising Chief Justice of India J S Khehar and Justices Dipak Misra, Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur, Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Kurien Joseph asked Justice Karnan to appear personally to respond to the allegations levelled against him on Monday. The contemnor has to appear personally in any contempt case unless his appearance is dispensed with the court which has initiated contempt action against him.
The order came after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi dubbed Karnan’s letters, levelling corruption charges against several sitting and retired judges of the Madras High Court and the top court as “embarrassing”, “scurrilous” and “horrendous” and demanded that the top court act to make an example out of him for bringing the system into “disrepute”. Karnan had not only sent copies of the letters to the Prime Minister and the Law Minister but had circulated them among the public, the AG stated. “The nature of the allegations are very disparaging… intended to bring the justice delivery mechanism into disrepute,” he said, expressing the hope that the court would not “hesitate to take action against one of its own”.
“It is completely scandalous, completely calculated to destroy administration of justice. He may be deal with a sterner hand…. The court must make an example out of him,” the Modi government’s top law officer said.
He said that while issu- ing the notices against Justices Karnan the court must stop allocating work to him as it “would be incongruous” to let his continue working. The CJI while issuing notice added a caveat against “presuming that all the letters circulating in public were that of Justice Karnan”.
“What if he denies it is not his?” The CJI also said that he would seeking the assistance of the bar and the AG on how to go ahead with the matter as it involved many issues of vital importance. “There’s cause-effect, assuming you punish, should he remain
in office or should he not?”
“We have to be very careful as this is a seven-judge bench and it will need a long, long time to change (the law set by the bench),” the CJI observed.
Justice Karnan is also expected to appear personally on Monday in another batch of petitions filed by the Madras High Court to defend his conduct of staying a collegium order transferring him to the Calcutta High Court from the Madras High Court. He has discharged his lawyer in that case. That top court bench had earlier stayed that order and Justice Karnan had gone on to join as a judge in the Calcutta High Court. He is accused in that case of still squatting on the Madras High Court allotted official bungalow and holding on to official files, besides passing controversial orders on the judicial side.