SC sends Justice Karnan to six months in jail
In an unprecedented order, the Supreme Court on Tuesday held controversial Calcutta High Court judge Justice C S Karnan guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to jail for six months, ordering that he be taken into custody forthwith.
A seven-judge constitution bench, headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, said: "We are of the unanimous view that Justice C S Karnan committed contempt of court, contempt of judiciary and the process."
This is the first time that a sitting high court judge is being sent to jail by the Supreme Court on charges of contempt.
The bench, which also comprised Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur, P C Ghose and Kurian Joseph, said it was satisfied that Justice Karnan be sentenced for six months in jail.
"The sentence shall be executed and he be taken into custody forthwith," the bench said.
The bench also banned the media, both print and electronic, from publishing the contents of further orders passed by Justice Karnan. At the outset of the hearing, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for West Bengal, said in compliance of apex court's earlier direction, a medical board along with the DGP and police personnel had gone to Justice Karnan's place but he gave a letter saying he was fit and of a sound mind. Dwivedi read out the letter to the bench.
ASG Maninder Singh told the bench that Justice Karnan knows what he is doing and he needs to be punished for contempt of court as he has passed several orders against the judges of the apex court.e needs to be punished for contempt of court as he has passed several orders against the judges of the apex court.
Senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for Registrar General of Madras High Court, said that if Justice Karnan is sent to jail, it would create a blemish of a sitting judge being sent to jail for contempt. The bench then said there was no question about the visit medical board having visited him (Karnan).
"We are assured that he is fit and fine and the medical board does not contradict it," the bench said.
The bench said the contempt power does not recognise who is what, whether he is a judge and individual or a private person and that it is simple contempt.
"If we do not send him to jail, there will be a blemish that Supreme Court has condoned the contempt committed by a judge," the bench said.
It said Justice Karnan can be punished as he has himself declared that he was of sound mind and the medical board has not contradicted it.
Justice Karnan had on Monday 'sentenced' Chief Justice of India J S Khehar and seven other judges of the Supreme Court to five years rigorous imprisonment.
The apex court had on May 1 directed medical check-up of Justice Karnan by doctors with police support, as the judge did not appear before it.
The judge had on May 4 declined to undergo a mental health checkup as ordered by the supreme court, telling a team of doctors he is "absolutely normal" and has a "stable mind".
The apex court had on March 10 issued a bailable warrant against Justice Karnan to ensure his presence before it in the contempt case. The warrant had come almost a month after the court had asked Justice Karnan to appear in person and explain why contempt proceedings not be initiated against him.