Justice C S Karnan fails to appear before Supreme Court in contempt proceedings

New Delhi: Controversial Calcutta High Court judge Justice C S Karnan today failed to appear before the Supreme Court in connection with suo motu contempt proceedings initiated against him.

A seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said that Justice Karnan, despite being served with the notice in the case, “has not put in appearance.”

“Moreover, no lawyer has been appointed by him to represent him today,” the bench, also comprising Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur, P C Ghose and Kurian Joseph, said.

“We are not aware of the reasons for his non-appearance. We, therefore, refrain from proceeding with the matter,” it said while deferring the matter for hearing after three weeks.

The apex court had last week turned the alleged contemptuous letters written by Justice Karnan against the Madras HC Chief Justice, which were addressed to the CJI, Prime Minister and others, into contempt proceedings against him.

At today’s hearing, the bench also took on record the recent controversial letter written by Justice Karnan to the Registrar General of the Supreme Court on February 10.

Justice Karnan has purportedly said in the letter that he has been victimised for being a ‘Dalit’ and this matter be referred to Parliament.

The bench today also took serious note of some lawyers appearing in the matter without being authorised by Justice Karnan and said that they will be proceeded against under the law for interfering with the judicial process.

Earlier, the apex court, on February 8, had asked Justice Karnan to appear in person before it and explain as to why contempt proceedings be not initiated against him.

Justice Karnan, in his communication of February 10, had reportedly played the Dalit card and asked the Supreme Court to refer the matter to Parliament, contending that the contempt proceedings were “not sustainable”.

“Before obtaining any explanation from me, I wish to state that the Courts have no power to enforce punishment against a sitting judge of the High Court. The said order does not conform to logic, therefore it is not suitable for execution,” he has said in response to the order of the bench headed by the CJI.

The apex court had earlier issued him the show cause notice for today and forthwith restrained him from undertaking judicial and administrative work.

“Issue notice to Justice C S Karnan. Returnable on February 13. Shree Justice C S Karnan shall forthwith refrain from handling any judicial or administrative work as may have been assigned to him,” the court had said.

Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi had referred to the nature of public communications allegedly undertaken by Justice Karnan and said they are “slanderous” and “disparaging” to the system of administration of justice.

The AG had referred to constitutional provisions and said that the apex court can take judicial note of the matter and is empowered to pass such an order.

Justice Karnan was transferred from the Madras HC to the Calcutta HC for his alleged contemptuous conduct. He had on February 15, 2016 stayed his transfer order after the apex court asked the Chief Justice of Madras High Court not to assign any judicial work to him.

The same day the apex court had suspended Justice Karnan’s order and made it clear that all administrative and judicial orders passed by him after the issuance of the proposal of his transfer from the Madras High Court to the Calcutta High Court shall remain stayed till further orders.

However, a week later, the judge had said that he had issued an “erroneous” order due to his “mental frustration resulting in loss of his mental balance”.

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