The Supreme Court issued contempt notice against sitting Calcutta high court judge justice CS Karnan on Wednesday for allegedly hitting out at his colleagues and former HC and SC judges with allegations of corruption.
In a first, a seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar refrained justice Karnan from handling any judicial and administrative work that may have been assigned to him as a consequence of office held by him. Justice Karnan has also been asked to immediately return all files in his possession.
On Tuesday, the top court initiated contempt proceedings against justice Karnan, making it the first instance of such proceedings against a sitting judge of an appellate court.
A copy of the case against him would be provided to justice Karnan by SC registry during the course of the day.
Before the court issued the order it heard attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, who termed justice Karnan’s allegations as disparaging. The HC judge has been writing letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, law minister Ravi Shankar and the CJI accusing sitting and retired judges of corruption.
Rohatgi said the top court must deal with the sitting judge sternly so that a message is sent across to citizens that judiciary does not dither from acting against one of its own. He also said the public communications by justice Karnan were scurrilous and slanderous.
He said the letters were embarrassing and were a calculated effort to destroy the administration of justice.
Justice Karnan, who courted controversy when he was a judge of the Madras HC after he openly spoke against his Chief Justice, has alleged that he is being persecuted for being a Dalit.
The judge has already challenged the SC collegium recommendation to transfer him out of his parent high court – Madras – to Calcutta. He will appear in the top court on February 13 to argue the case himself.
On February 12, 2016, the collegium headed by then chief justice TS Thakur issued marching orders to Karnan after he openly accused Madras HC chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul of harassing him. Justice Karnan initially refused to accept the transfer and put it on hold himself, only to relent later.
He has, however, not vacated the official bungalow in Chennai and has not handed over files of 12 cases, against which the HC registry has moved the top court.
Justice Karnan stirred fresh controversy when he sent a letter to the Prime Minister on January 23. The letter said, “high corruption in the judiciary is still being perpetrated in an arbitrary fashion and without fear.”
He furnished the list and claimed his allegations could be proved through “some competent agencies.” The letter included the name of a high court chief justice who is due for an elevation to the SC.