Retired Justice C.S. Karnan, who is lodged in Presidency jail since June 21, has now filed a Petition before the Apex Court, seeking review of the order dated 9 May that had led to his imprisonment. Th Supreme Court has released it's detailed judgment on 5th July this month.
The Petition makes an attempt to justify the leveling of allegations against other Judges, distinguishing between a Judge and a Court, and contending that allegations against a Judge in his individual capacity has nothing to do with the Court itself. As against such allegations, he said, the Judges would only have a personal remedy of defamation available to them.
He then goes on to demand that the veracity of the allegations be investigated, before proceeding against him, contending, “There is no reason to come to pre enquiry conclusion that the allegations are frivolous or malicious, that too when allegations are made out by the person holding constitutional post against the persons who holds similar positions and authorities. It is a prejudiced conclusion under which the instant proceedings are initiated. It weakens the institution of judiciary and gives further strength to the corrupt to perpetuate their corrupt practices, so that nobody is able to criticize great injustices dispensed by such persons of power.”
Mr. Karnan, thereafter, challenges the procedure adopted in the case at hand, and contends that it will lay down a wrong precedent. He contends that the Supreme Court is not vested with administrative or judicial supervision upon the High Courts, and hence, the Supreme Court’s interference in the present case was without jurisdiction.
He also highlights certain discrepancies in the date of pronouncement of the judgment, and submits, “The Petitioner’s case is no longer the case of an individual who has been convicted and sentenced to imprisonment without a charge sheet, without a trial, without even a judgment, but by a sentence where a reasoned judgment is yet to be delivered, but one concerning the very right of freedom of speech and expression, transparency and accountability in higher judiciary.”
Thereafter, demanding that the impugned orders be declared as unconstitutional and void, Mr. Karnan pleads, “There could be no parallel in the judicial history of any nation to the injustice meted out to the petitioner in the name of upholding the majesty and dignity of the institution of judiciary. The Review Petitioner, though would not ever claim to have never erred or being infallible, he could assert with clean conscience that as a judge and a citizen he had only one thing in mind, one dream, a judiciary which is independent, impartial, which is accountable to the people, for the people and is drawn from the diverse sections of the society.”
Mr. Karnan was arrested by the West Bengal Police from Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu on June 20, after having evaded arrest since May 9. This was in aftermath of an order passed on May 9, wherein the seven Judge SC Bench had sentenced him to 6 months in jail after finding him guilty of contempt of Court.
“On merits, we are of the considered view, that Sri Justice C.S. Karnan, has committed contempt of the judiciary. His actions constitute contempt of this Court, and of the judiciary of the gravest nature. Having found him guilty of committing contempt, we convict him accordingly. We are satisfied to punish him by sentencing him to imprisonment for six months. As a consequence, the contemnor shall not perform any administrative or judicial functions,” the seven Judge Bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar had then observed.
A reasoned judgment, which was released only recently, elaborated on the Bench’s unanimous decision. However, Justices J. Chelameswar and Ranjan Gogoi have, in their separate judgment, while agreeing with the Bench, introspected a bit over how the system led to his rise.
In Paragraph 26 of their judgments, the two Judges have observed: “This case, in our opinion, has importance extending beyond the immediate problem. This case highlights two things, (1) the need to revisit the process of selection and appointment of judges to the constitutional courts, for that matter any member of the judiciary at all levels; and (2) the need to set up appropriate legal regime to deal with situations where the conduct of a Judge of a constitutional court requires corrective measures – other than impeachment to be taken.”