Murali Krishnan March 31, 2017
“Restore my judicial work or punish me right away”, Karnan J: The drama as it unfolded in court
Justice Karnan demands
The Chief Justice of India’s Court today witnessed something it had never seen before. Justice Karnan, a sitting judge of one of the most prominent High Courts in the country, stood before a seven-judge Bench of the Supreme Court and argued in person in a contempt case against him.
Even as the case remained inconclusive, the hearing today threw up submissions and counters which were certainly interesting.
Here is how the drama unfolded:
There was a big crowd outside the Court of the Chief Justice of India. Lawyers and journalists all gathered in anticipation of a likely non-bailable warrant in case the judge does not appear.
Reports pour in of Justice Karnan having arrived at the court.
Justice Karnan enters courtroom.
Justice Karnan had a calm demeanour about him as he began his submissions. He said that his actions were aimed at the general welfare of the public and that he was not fighting against the judiciary. He cited various complaints made by him against different people including judges, which were never pursued or investigated. He said,
“I have not committed any mistake. I am not fighting the judiciary.”
The Court, however, posed to him the question whether he stands by the allegations made by him in his letter to the Prime Minister.
“Are you reiterating whatever you have stated in your letter? Think carefully and answer. It you want time to think, we can allow you the same.”
Karnan J, however, did not answer the question. He instead responded that if a complaint is made by someone, that complaint has to be disposed of on merits.
He also said that the Court had withdrawn his judicial work without giving him the opportunity of being heard, thus denying him natural justice. He said,
“Your lordships initiated contempt case against me. Then without hearing me, you withdrew judicial work from me. It is a violation of natural justice.”
He went on state that he has “suffered a lot” in the past two months.
The Court felt that Justice Karnan was going on a different tangent and not answering the questions posed to him. CJI Khehar remarked,
“It might not be intentional, but his response is not to our question.”
However, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi did not agree.
“He has done everything fully comprehending what he was doing. Right from the time allegations were first made to affirming and re-affirming the same I don’t think there was any case of non-comprehension. He went on naming the judges, thus damning the judges and the institution.”
This led to an emotional appeal by Justice Karnan.
“I am not a terrorist or an anti-social element. All I did was make a complaint to the Prime Minister against 20 judges. Instead of inquiring into it, your lordships initiated contempt against me and withdrew my judicial work. I have been humiliated and insulted.
I am also holding a Constitutional office. With police coming to my residence, the insult is not just to me but to the entire judiciary.”
Justice Khehar responded by stating that the bailable warrant was issued not because Karnan J was a terrorist but because he failed to appear in court despite notice being issued.
“That is the procedure followed by this Court”, said Khehar J.
The court then proceeded to dictate the following order:
“Justice CS Karnan has entered appearance in-person. He was asked whether he would like to withdraw allegations made by him against the judges.
He has not responded in any affirmative manner. We can therefore proceed only after getting his written submissions. We, therefore, direct Justice Karnan to file his written submission within four weeks.”
The Court also declined his request to restore his judicial work in the interim.
Outburst: “Restore judicial work or punish me right away”
In a show of defiance, Karnan J. vociferously argued that the Court should either restore his judicial work or punish him right away.
“If my judicial work is not restored, I will not make any submissions, I will not appear before Your Lordships. Your Lordships can impose any punishment right away. I am mentally disturbed because you withdrew my judicial work”, he said.
“If you feel that you are not mentally prepared to respond then please produce a medical certificate”, shot back CJI Khehar.
The Bench then rose even as Karnan J. continued to protest vociferously.
My Lords: Not Above the Law
My Lords: Not Above the Law
Karnan J. contempt: SC issues notice, withdraws judicial and administrative work from judge [Read order]
Karnan J. contempt: SC issues notice, withdraws judicial and administrative work from judge