The Supreme Court on Monday stayed suo motu orders and contempt proceedings sought to be initiated by a Madras High Court judge against the Chief Justice of High Court Sanjay K Kaul.
A bench led by Chief Justice of India H L Dattu said that there shall be stay on the notice of contempt issued by HC judge Justice C S Karnan and that he wouldn’t pass any orders in this matter till the case is decided by the top court.
The bench further said no person or judge shall interfere with the process of the appointment of civil judges initiated by HC Chief Justice on the administrative side.
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Appearing for the HC Registry, senior advocate K K Venugopal said that Justice Karnan’s order has brought disrepute to the institution and hence all judicial works should also be withdrawn from him.
The CJI, however, said that this aspect could be decided on the administrative side, in accordance with the in-house procedure evolved by the higher judiciary.
Justice Karnan had triggered a fresh row by threatening to file contempt of court proceedings against Chief Justice Kaul, as well as warning that he would initiate proceedings against him under provisions of the SC/ST Atrocities (Prevention) Act.
In two separate unsigned letters sent to Chief Justice Kaul (on April 16 and 30), Justice Karnan also stated that he was suo motu staying the administrative order of the Chief Justice with regard to selection of civil judges, finding fault with the appointments.
Justice Karnan has said he would go to the National SC/ST Commission against Justice Kaul for “harassing” him.
In November 2011, Justice Karnan had created a flutter by alleging that fellow judges had humiliated him. He had said Dalit judges were targeted and their reputation tarnished whenever they asserted their self-respect.
In January last year, he had commented against the high court collegium over the selection of judges, storming into a courtroom hearing a PIL to make his point. In the latest instance, Justice Karnan raised objections against a five-member judge panel interviewing candidates for selection as civil judges. He accused one of the judges with having a bogus degree certificate and questioned the inclusion of two judges from the same community and family. He sought that two of the judges be from minority communities, Muslim and Christian.
The Supreme Court had in March last year came down heavily on Justice Karnan, terming his conduct in this case as “indecorous” and “uncharitable”.
The SC said Justice Karnan’s “raw unconventional protest” of walking into a courtroom and making statements when a division bench was hearing a writ petition against the appointments of judges to the High Court “raised a negative murmur about the maintenance of propriety in judicial proceedings.”
It had added: “The sudden unfamiliar incident made us fume inwardly on this raw unconventional protest that was unexpected, uncharitable and ungenerous, and to say the least it was indecorous.”
On Justice Karnan’s complaints of an upper caste bias in appointment of judges, the SC said that he may have “found himself caught in a conflict of class or caste structure and it appears that matured patience might have given way to injure rules of protocol.”
The court observed that such conduct may require a more serious judicial assessment in future. The apex court pointed out that immense dignity was expected from the judges, and that weaknesses or personal notions should not be exposed so as to affect judicial proceedings.
Once Justice Karnan had addressed a press conference at his chamber in which, narrating the “humiliation” and “embarrassment” he faced in the high court, he alleged that a fellow judge sitting cross-legged next to him at a meeting had touched him with his shoes deliberately and then said sorry. “Two other judges were watching it smiling,” he said.
In 2013, Justice Karnan had ruled that if a couple at the right legal age indulged in sexual gratification, it would be considered a valid marriage and they could be termed husband and wife.