Calcutta HC judge CS Karnan retires today, remains a wanted man
Calcutta high court's justice CS Karnan on Monday became the first judge to retire while being on the run, facing arrest.
Incidentally, his unceremonious exit coincides with his 62nd birthday.
Calcutta high court, in another first, did not host the customary farewell dinner for the retiring judge, who is also facing a six-month jail sentence.
Justice Karnan has been absconding since May 9 after a seven-judge Supreme Court bench passed an unprecedented arrest order against him.
The order was issued after his embarrassing spat with senior judges of the top court in the course of which he even ordered the arrest of the Chief Justice of India.
While issuing the arrest warrant against him, the Supreme Court also ordered the media to refrain from reporting Karnan's statements.
Karnan has alleged that he is being targeted because he is a Dalit.
His last official working day would have been Friday because his retirement came into effect on Sunday.
"Since Monday is the first working day, there would have been a full-court reference in Court No 1 to bid adieu to the retiring judge," a senior Calcutta high court official told HT. "This is done whenever a judge retires or gets transferred," he added.
"This is followed by a farewell dinner hosted at the judges' lounge adjacent to the court library in the main building. It is usually a buffet. A temporary canopy is also set up on the lawn so that the judges can spend time in the outdoors while exchanging pleasantries," the official added.
None of these were being organised on Monday.
In fact, a lot of other things, too, had not been done. Court officials said that paperwork involving a judge's post-retirement benefits is usually taken care of at least two months before retirement so that there is no delay in disbursement of pension. "But the judge had been barred by the Supreme Court from attending office. He did not come to court for months," said an official.
Interestingly, after joining duty Karnan opted not to take the monthly automobile allowance of Rs 60,000 that high court judges are entitled to.
"He was the only Calcutta high court judge who used to travel in a pool car," the official said. "A few days ago, even the official landline at his New Town apartment was disconnected apparently because of non-payment of bill. It was brought to our notice by Karnan's personal security officer who visits the apartment although nobody lives there now," said the official.
Nearly a month after the arrest order, police are clueless about the whereabouts of the judge.
At least two teams of Kolkata Police comprising senior officers of West Bengal Police and headed by DGP (Home Guards) Raj Kanojia are engaged in the hunt for the judge who hails from a village in Tamil Nadu's Cuddalore district.
The futile search in several states has triggered speculation that the judge could be hiding in Andhra Pradesh or Tamil Nadu.
A senior Kolkata police officer tracking the case said, "Justice Karnan has switched off his phones and is not using the two SIM cards he had." On why the trail had gone cold, the officer said, "The lack of knowledge of Tamil and the local topography have hindered the search and forced the Bengal police to rely on their Tamil Nadu counterparts."