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Judges argue in Open Court; Calcutta HC Bar Association decides to boycott Justice Karnan’s Court

Apoorva Mandhani
7 Jun 2016 4:23 PM GMT
Judges argue in Open Court; Calcutta HC Bar Association decides to boycott Justice Karnan’s Court
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Two Judges of a Division Bench of Calcutta High Court on Tuesday reportedly argued with each other in open Court, over granting bail to some persons accused in the Vivekananda Road flyover collapse.

The Bench comprising Justice Karnan and Justice Ashim Kumar Roy had earlier on May 20, refused bail to the ten accused persons. Justice Karnan however had a change of mind after 18 days of refusal of bail by the Bench.

Justice Roy objected to this while in open Court, and said that such orders were always passed in open Court. Justice Karnan however reasoned that he had a change of heart after going through the papers afresh in his chambers and hence signed in favor of granting bail to accused on Monday. Following the argument, the two Judges retired to their respective chambers.

Later in the day, the Calcutta High Court Bar Association held an urgent general body and decided to not participate in any judicial proceedings before the Court of Justice Karnan, owing to the alleged “misbehaviour”.

Justice Karnan had earlier stayed his own transfer order and directed Chief Justice of India to file a reply. Around the same time, Apex Court had directed Madras High Court Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul to not allow Justice Karnan to deal with any more judicial work. You may read the LiveLaw article here.

Soon after, Justice Karnan had sent a letter of remorse to the Chief Justice of India, Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice R. Banumathi, stating that he had passed an “erroneous order” due to his mental frustration resulting in “loss of mental balance”.

Not a man unknown to controversies, Justice Karnan had made headlines when he had alleged that he was left out of the Tamil Nadu State Judicial Academy as he was from the scheduled caste. He had claimed that all participants were from the upper caste and that his name was removed in order to make way for a Junior Judge who belonged to the upper caste.

He had then gone ahead and passed another order  in May, 2015, requesting the Chief Justice to extend co-operation “without any interference with my Court’s proceedings and its Judicial Power in order to maintain the decorum of the Court and avoid an unhealthy practice of Judiciary in the interest of the general public. He also requested the Chief to avoid ego and stop acting in an autocratic manner to protect democracy.”

The controversy had taken root with Chief Justice Sanjay Kaul constituting the recruitment committee comprising of Justices V. Dhanapalan, R. Sudhakar, D. Hariparanthaman, N. Kirubakaran and R. Mala to interview candidates for selection as Civil Judges. The Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission chairman and other officers were to be part of the selection committee and it was scheduled to start oral interview of candidates from April 15 till April 21.

On April 16, 2015, Justice Karnan initiated suo motu proceedings and passed a judicial order questioning Justice Dhanapalan’s inclusion in the committee. He alleged that latter had produced “bogus educational qualifications” about his bachelor and masters degree in law, he had no locus standi to conduct interview. He had even directed the CBI to inquire into his educational qualifications.

He also alleged that inclusion of Justices Sudhakar and Hariparanthaman, who hailed from the same community besides being relatives, would send a wrong signal about the fairness of selection. He went on to stay the CJ’s administrative order and restrained the public service commission chairman from conducting the interview of candidates for civil judge posts.

“In order to control the mal-administration of My Lord Chief Justice, I am passing this suo-motu judicial order in the interest of justice invoking Article 226 of the Constitution to restore the confidence in the Madras high court and confidence with the general public,” he said and ordered that two judges must be from minorities communities, one from Muslim community and another from Christian community, to give a fair representation to all communities in the recruitment committee.

On April 17, 2015, Justice Karnan’s suo motu order was placed before a division bench of Justices S. Tamilvanan and C.T. Selvam, which stayed the April 16 order.

Despite the division bench order, Justice Karnan directed the Registry to place the matter before him on judicial side on April 30. On that day, he reiterated his earlier order and threatened the Chief Justice with contempt of court proceedings.

The Madras High Court registry moved the Supreme Court seeking stay of the order passed by Justice Karnan. The Supreme Court had stayed the order passed by Justice Karnan.

In January, 2014 as well, Justice Karnan had made an attempt to stall his probable transfer to another High Court in a letter addressed to the then Chief Justice of India P. Sathasivam and the then Chief Justice of Madras High Court, Justice R.K. Agrawal. He had claimed that maintaining that his presence in Madras High Court was important, as he obliged to prove his allegations against the Chief Justice of India and other Judges of the High Court. You may read the LiveLaw story here.

Justice Karnan has been notorious for making serious allegations against his other fellow Judges as well. In May last year, he had alleged that a Judge of the Madras High Court had assaulted an intern within the High Court premises. “I have preferred several representations to your Lordship regarding the conduction of enquiry on the custodial rape committed by Mr. Justice XXXXXX (name withheld) on the law intern Miss XXXXX (name withheld) at the Madras High Court,” he had written to the Chief Justice of the High Court. You may read the LiveLaw article here.

In another letter written to the Chief Justice of India, he had criticized the collegium system. The Collegium system, according to Justice Karnan, “acted on its own views or whims and fancies to say the least” which “disturbs” both his mind and “Judicial work”. In the letter, he praised the government’s move to constitute the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) and said that is “most appropriate for the functioning of the judiciary in an unfettered manner and to render justice.” You may read the LiveLaw article here.

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