For the first time in the history of Indian judiciary, the Supreme Court on Tuesday held controversial Calcutta High Court judge Justice C S Karnan guilty of contempt of court and judicial process, and sentenced him to six months imprisonment.
A seven-judge Constitution bench led by Chief Justice J S Khehar said, “We are of the unanimous view that Justice C S Karnan committed contempt of court, judiciary and the judicial process of the gravest nature.”This is the first time that a sitting High Court judge is being sent to jail by the Supreme Court on charges of contempt.
“The sentence shall be executed and he be taken into custody forthwith,” the bench said. It said the contempt power does not recognise who is what, whether he is a judge and individual or a private person and that it is simple contempt.
“If we do not send him to jail, there will be a blemish that Supreme Court has condoned the contempt committed by a judge,” the bench observed. It said Justice Karnan can be punished as he has himself declared that he was of sound mind and the medical board has not contradicted it.
However, the apex court barred media from publishing the contents of further orders passed by Justice Karnan, who on Monday issued an order sentencing eight Supreme Court judges to five years of ‘rigorous imprisonment’ and imposed a fine of rS 1,00,000 each under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 and the amended Act of 2015.
While the Supreme Court had ordered Justice Karnan to be medically examined, he had refused to undergo the medical tests on May 4 and told the team of doctors, in a written response, that he was ‘absolutely normal and with a stable mind.’
ASG Maninder Singh argued that the sitting justice needs to be punished for contempt of court as he has passed several orders against the judges of the apex court. Justice Karnan had on Monday ‘sentenced’ the Chief Justice of India and seven other judges of the Supreme Court to five years rigorous imprisonment.
Senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for registrar general of Madras high court, said that if Justice Karnan is sent to jail, it would create a blemish of a sitting judge being sent to jail for contempt.
On March 10, the apex court issued a bailable warrant against Justice Karnan after he failed to personally appear in court for the second time in the contempt case against him which was initiated after he continuously levelled allegations against the Madras HC Chief Justice and other judges.