Law

Supreme Court Sentences Justice Karnan to Six Months Imprisonment

Justice C.S. Karnan is the first high court judge to have been found guilty of contempt of court.

Justice Karnan. Credit: PTIJustice Karnan. Credit: PTI

Justice Karnan. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court today sentenced Calcutta high court judge Justice C.S. Karnan to six months in jail for contempt of court and said its order needs to be executed forthwith.

A seven-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar said, “We are of unanimous view that Justice C.S. Karnan committed contempt of court, contempt of judiciary and the process.”

The bench, comprising Justices Dipak Misra, J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur, P.C. Ghose and Kurian Joseph, also said that it is satisfied that Justice Karnan be sentenced for six months in jail

“The sentence shall be executed and he be taken into custody forthwith,” the bench said.

This is the first time that a high court judge is being sent to jail by the Supreme Court on charges of contempt.

The bench also banned the media, both print and electronic, from publishing the content of further orders passed by Justice Karnan.

In an escalation of his confrontation with the Supreme Court, Justice Karnan on Monday night said the eight judges on the bench, including the chief justice, have “jointly committed the offences punishable under the SC/ST Atrocities Act of 1989 and amended Act of 2015.”

The bench had initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against Justice Karnan and restrained him from performing judicial and administrative work.

Justice Karnan also added another supreme court judge, Justice R. Banumathi, in the list, against whom the order was passed for having restrained his judicial and administrative work along with CJI Khehar.

Justice Karnan had on May 4 declined to undergo a mental health checkup as ordered by the Supreme Court, telling a team of doctors he is “absolutely normal” and has a “stable mind”.

Stating that the eight judges of the apex court have committed caste discrimination, Justice Karnan said they “shall be punished under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Atrocities Act, 1989.”

He said that the eight judges “have operated judicial and adminstrative power and harassed a dalit judge besides insulting me at a public institution. The same has been proved beyond all the reasonable doubt from their orders. Hence, an adjudication is not required in the instant case,” Justice Karnan said in his order from a makeshift “court” at his home in Rosedale Towers, New Tow, Kolkata.

In his order, Justice Karnan imposed sentences of five years each and a fine of Rs 1 lakh on three counts, under sub-sections (1)(m), (1)(r) and (1)(u) of Section 3 of the SC/ST Atrocities Act.

Justice Karnan directed that all the three sentences would run concurrently and said that if the fines were not paid, they would “undergo further six months of imprisonment.”

He directed that the fine amount be “paid within a period of one week to the National Commission, Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Constitutional body, Khan Market, New Delhi from date of receipt of the order.”

Justice Karnan also said that an order passed by him on April 13 directing the judges of the bench to pay a fine of Rs 14 crore was in force and directed “the Registrar General attached to the Supreme Court to recover the said amount from the salary of each.”

He also directed Justice Banumathi to pay a compensation of Rs 2 crore.

The apex court has taken suo motu cognisance of various letters written by Justice Karnan against judges of the Madras high court and the Supreme Court and restrained him from exercising administrative and judicial power from February 8.

Justice Karnan appeared before the Supreme Court on March 31 in connection with the contempt proceeding, becoming the first high court judge to do so in the history of Indian judiciary.