SC Strips HC Judge Kar­nan of All Work

Kar­nan asked to ap­pear in court on Fe­bru­ary 13

The Economic Times - - Economy - Sa­man­waya.Rau­tray @times­group.com

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

CON­TEMPT CHARGE

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.

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