Karnan case calls for reviewing judges' selection process: SC
Justice C S Karnan's case calls for revisiting the process of selection of judges to the constitutional courts, Justices J Chelameswar and Justice Ranjan Gogoi of the Supreme Court have said.
The two judges, who concurred with the main judgement passed by a seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, said this case highlighted the need to set up an appropriate legal regime to deal with situations where the conduct of a judge of a constitutional court requires to take corrective measures, other than impeachment.
"Surely there must be other ways of dealing with such cases. The text of the Constitution is silent in this regard. May be it is time for the nation to debate this issue," they said.
Justices Chelameswar and Gogoi said the conduct of Justice Karnan during pendency of the proceedings constitutes criminal contempt falling both under the heads of scandalising the court as well as interference with the proceedings of the apex court.
"In our view, the contemnor is therefore liable to be punished for the contempt of this court," the bench said.
"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," it said.
Ironically, Justice Chelameswar was a part of five-judge constitution bench in which he was the lone dissenting judge who has held as valid the appointment of judges through the National Judicial Appointment Commission (NJAC) Act. The Act was struck down by the apex court.
In the minority judgement delivered by him, he had found fault with the existing mode of appointment of judges for higher judiciary through collegium system. In the recent past, when there was a tussle between the judiciary and the executive over the appointment of judges, he had reportedly skipped the meeting of the collegium and has been insisting that there should be reasoning given by the judges in the collegium on selection and rejection of judges.
While writing the judgement for himself and Justice Gogoi, Justice Chelameswar said there is no doubt that such conduct on the part of Justice Karnan has brought "disrepute to the judicial system and has the potential of shaking the confidence of the average citizen in the system".
The two judges said Justice Karnan has not shown the slightest remorse which could be a mitigating factor and such conduct and action, if tolerated, would certainly reflect an element of weakness in the system and no such weakness can be allowed to enter system.