FOR THE first time, the Supreme Court has initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against a high court judge for writing letters, levelling allegations of corruption against several sitting and retired apex court and high court judges.
The unprecedented move will see the seven senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice of India, drawing up contempt proceedings against Calcutta High Court judge C S Karnan.
A fortnight ago, Justice Karnan had written an open letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to take action against what he described as “high corruption at the judiciary”. In his letter dated January 23, the judge furnished “an initial list of corrupt judges” and named 20 judges of the Supreme Court and high courts.
WATCH VIDEO | Supreme Court Moves Against High Court Judge For Contempt For First Time
According to sources, the special bench comprising the seven senior-most judges have been constituted considering the seriousness of the issue.
The bench headed by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar will hear Wednesday the suo motu contempt case against Justice Karnan.
Other judges on the bench are Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur, P C Ghose and Kurian Joseph. The judges, it is understood, have taken note of various letters and statements of Justice Karnan and would initiate proceedings on that basis.
A high court judge can be removed only through impeachment by Parliament. Therefore, the course of action available with the apex court would include issuing judicial orders to withdraw Justice Karnan’s judicial powers and stop allocation of any work to him, besides issuing restraint orders against his power to initiate suo motu proceedings.
Justice Karnan has courted several controversies during his previous stint as a Madras High Court judge. The Supreme Court stepped in last year when he stayed his own transfer mooted by the apex court collegium and initiated proceedings against the High Court chief justice.
The judge had also sought an explanation from the Chief Justice of India over the move to transfer him. The Supreme Court had then restrained him from issuing any judicial order — suo motu or otherwise — and imposed a blanket stay on all directions issued by him after February 12, 2016, when the collegium moved to transfer him. He joined the Calcutta High Court a few months later, after the President set a deadline.
Justice Karnan has now decided to appear in person in the top court to argue against the collegium’s mandate to transfer him.
In June 2013, he had ruled that if a couple of legal age indulges in sexual gratification, it will be considered a valid marriage and that they can be termed husband and wife. After facing backlash from the public and the legal fraternity, he issued a gag order to restrain others from making adverse comments.
He once addressed a press conference at his chamber to allege that a fellow judge sitting cross-legged next to him at a meeting had touched him with his shoes deliberately before apologising, and that two other judges looked on “smilingly”. He has also lodged complaints with National Commission for SC/ST claiming that he was abused by fellow judges because he was a Dalit.