Retired high Court judge C S Karnan was liable to be punished for contempt of court for his “unsavoury actions and behavior” as his utterances had turned the judicial system into a “laughing stock”, the Supreme Court has said. The apex court, which came out with the detailed judgement on the six-month jail awarded to Karnan, then sitting judge of the Calcutta High Court, said his case was “unfortunate” as it concerned action against a sitting judge which drew attention of the media, both domestic and foreign.
The apex court uploaded on its website the detailed judgement signed yesterday. There are two sets of concurring verdicts. The court had given a brief order on May 9. Karnan, who was absconding since May 9, was arrested by the West Bengal police on June 20 from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu and has been lodged in Kolkata jail since then.
He is the first sitting judge to be jailed. The seven-judge bench comprising Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur, P C Ghose and Kurian Joseph which dealt with the issue of Justice Karnan said, “It is expected to record its conclusions, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will”.
The bench said, “His demeanour was found to have become further aggressive after this court passed orders from time to time in this case”. The apex court, which had set up a medical board to examine Justice Karnan, assumed him to be medically and mentally fit in the absence of the report submitted by the panel of doctors.
“We are of the view that psychiatrists on the Board of Doctors, would have been in opposition to evaluate the mental health of Justice Karnan, during the above interaction. “Had they found anything remiss, they would have informed this Court accordingly. Since no report has been submitted by the Board of Doctors, we would assume, that they had found nothing significant enough to report.
“We would, therefore, accept the assertion of Justice Karnan, that he is medically and mentally fit, to defend himself,” the detailed order said. Justice Khehar wrote the main judgement on behalf of himself and Justices Misra, Lokur, Ghose and Joseph. Justices Chelameswar and Gogoi wrote the second order. During the interregnum of May 9 and July 4, Justice Ghose retired on May 27 and it was widely speculated how the detailed judgement would be delivered.