Seeking relief in a contempt case, Calcutta High Court judge Justice C S Karnan on Thursday approached the Supreme Court to recall its order awarding him a six-month jail term. A petition on Justice Karnan’s behalf was presented before a five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar, which agreed to consider his plea. Karnan is the first ever sitting judge in the history of Indian judiciary to be jailed.
Advocate Mathews J Nedumpara, who mentioned the plea before the apex court bench, was asked by J S Khehar about his whereabouts. To this, Nedumpara said he is “very much in Chennai”. After the chief justice further asked the advocate to show papers that authorised him to represent Karnan, he showed the notorised papers of authorisation for filing the plea on behalf of the judge to the bench. The plea filed by Nedumpara mentioned: “The petitioner, a judge of the High Court of Calcutta, is not under any disciplinary jurisdiction of either the CJI
or the Bench of Seven Judges constituted by the CJI, as in the instant case.”
The advocate also mentioned that at least 12 advocates had refused to represent the controversial judge. The five-judge bench headed by J S Khehar comprised of Justices Kurian Joseph, U U Lalit, Abdul Nazeer, and R F Nariman.
Meanwhile, earlier today, the Indian Express had reported that Justice Karnan may be evading arrest and could have possibly left the country as claimed by his close aide and legal adviser W Peter Ramesh Kumar. Although Kumar claimed that Karnan might have crossed Indian borders to “Nepal or Bangladesh”, he refused to speak about the route and other details.
— ANI (@ANI_news) May 11, 2017
In an order passed on May 9, a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court had sentenced Karnan to six-months jail after it found him guilty of contempt of court. The order came a day after Karnan had ordered eight apex court judges to be put behind bars. On the same day, the apex court had also ordered the West Bengal police to take him into custody. But even before the pronouncement of the SC order, Justice Karnan had left Kolkata for Chennai where he was reportedly staying.
The bench, comprising of judges Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur, P C Ghose and Kurian Joseph, had observed it was satisfied that Justice Karnan be sentenced for six months in jail adding that the contempt power does not recognise who is what, whether he is a judge an individual or a private person.
Karnan, who was divested of his judicial and administrative powers following his tussle with the apex court, had on May 8 “sentenced” CJI Khehar and seven other judges of the Supreme Court to five years imprisonment after he reportedly “found them guilty” under the Scheduled Caste & Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989) and the amended 2015 Act.
After Justice Karnan went on a warpath with the Supreme Court, the seven-judge bench initiated contempt of court proceedings against him after he persistently levelled allegations of corruption against Madras High Court chief justice and other judges. The apex court had also banned both the print and electronic media from publishing the contents of further orders passed by Justice Karnan, as well as the statements made by him.
On March 31, Justice Karnan had appeared before the apex court in the contempt case even as he sought restoration of his powers as a precondition for his re-appearance. The plea was rejected. However, Justice Karnan had put up a belligerent face in front of the court when he said would not appear before it again even if he was arrested and put behind bars. The controversial judge was transferred from the Madras HC for his repeated allegations and tiffs with its chief justice and fellow judges. An obstinate Karnan stayed his transfer order on February 15, 2016 which was suspended by the apex court.