Absconding former Calcutta High Court judge CS Karnan was tonight arrested by the West Bengal CID from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu, more than a month after the Supreme Court sentenced him to six months imprisonment for contempt of court. “We arrested former high court judge Karnan at around 6.45 pm from a private resort at Malumichampatti in Coimbatore,” a senior officer of the CID told PTI in Kolkata. Sixty-two-year-old Karnan, who retired from service on June 12, had been “hiding” in the resort for the last few days and tried to resist the team of CID officers from West Bengal when it went there to arrest him.
“He (Karnan) resisted our officers and there was an argument also. Despite that, we arrested him,” he said, adding that the former judge will be produced in a court in Chennai tomorrow before being taken to Kolkata. Three police teams from Kolkata were camping in Coimbatore, around 550 km from Chennai, for the past three days and traced Karnan on the basis of his mobile phone calls.
The police in Tamil Nadu gave the technical support to trace his whereabouts, officials in Coimbatore said. The apex court had sentenced Karnan to six months jail for contempt of court on May 9, when he was a serving judge of the Calcutta High Court. Karnan, evading arrest since May 9, became the first high court judge to have retired as a fugitive. A customary farewell by the high court administration to the retiring judge could not be held in the Calcutta High Court as Karnan was not present.
“A farewell given by the administration is held, which is attended by judges and senior lawyers and speeches are made as per the custom. This was not held as he was not present,” Calcutta High Court Registrar General Sugato Majumdar had said. A seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar, had asked the West Bengal director general of police to take Karnan, who has been on a warpath with the Supreme Court for the last several months, into custody.
He has the dubious distinction of being the first sitting high court judge to be awarded a jail term by the apex court. Despite several attempts, Justice Karnan has failed to get any relief from the apex court’s vacation benches which refused to hear his plea seeking a stay of its jail term order. His lawyers had also claimed to have approached President Pranab Mukherjee for exercising his power to stay the apex court’s order, but no relief has come to the ex-judge.
After being sentenced to a six-month jail term, Karnan had on May 12 moved the apex court for relief, saying neither the high courts nor their judges, were “subordinate” to it. He had sought recall of the apex court’s order, contending he could not be held guilty of contempt of court. Karnan had said the Contempt of Courts Act was a “cathartic jurisprudence which belonged to the Dark Ages, the era of inquisition and torture, distinct from the classical Roman Law which constitutes the foundation of modern jurisprudence”.
He had also sought a stay on all “further proceedings” pursuant to the May 9 order. Earlier, the apex court had issued a bailable warrant against him to secure his presence in the contempt case. He had appeared before the apex court on March 31, a first in Indian judicial history, and had asked for restoration of his powers as a precondition for his re- appearance, but the plea was rejected.
Karnan, who enrolled as an advocate with the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu in 1983, was appointed a judge of the Madras High Court in 2009. He was transferred to the Calcutta High Court on March 11, 2016. He was transferred from the Madras High Court for his repeated allegations and run-ins with its then chief justice and fellow judges. The high court judge had on February 15, 2016 stayed his transfer order, which was suspended by the Supreme Court.