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Was Karnan's arrest necessary?

Was Karnans arrest necessary?

Legal experts believe, Justice S C Karnan's arrest should have been avoided in the interest of the judiciary's dignity. That was not to be. For the first time in the country, Justice Karnan, a retired judge of the Calcutta High Court was lodged in jail in Kolkata 48 hours back on Wednesday, because of failing to get a last minute reprieve from the Supreme Court. He was sentenced for contempt earlier this year in February, after several unfortunate incidents. There is no denying that Justice Karnan's offences pertained to making wild and unsubstantiated allegations against a number of fellow judges. His tactics of intimidation against a number of brother judges, as well as Chief Justices who tried over the years to discipline him were not only shocking but also unacceptable.


The Apex court, which allowed him to enter the portals of the higher judiciary, would have done better had it adopted a more pragmatic approach. Justice Karnan was due to retire, and it might have been sufficient if he was allowed to do so under a dark cloud of dishonour, after spending his last days in office stripped of judicial work. It is rather unfortunate for the institution that a man, who the Supreme Court felt required mental health evaluation, should be sentenced by a seven judge bench of the Supreme Court, to be arrested and sent to jail. Among the alternatives to imprisonment, the court could have recommended his impeachment to Parliament which the Supreme Court may have considered.

There is no defence of Justice Karnan's shocking refusal to answer the contempt charges, or going underground to avoid arrest for nearly seven weeks. These were actions that reinforced his waywardness and disregard for the law. The High Courts are at their wits end when it comes to dealing with stubborn or unmanageable judges who are not amenable to any discipline or capable of any self restraint. Non-allotment of judicial work and transfer to another High Court are measures available for the purpose. However, in Justice Karnan's case, these hardly had any calming effect. Instead, he continued to make self serving claims that he was being victimised, because he was a Dalit.

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