Supreme Court ordering medical examination of the Calcutta high court judge Justice C S Karnan to determine his mental condition for his defiance

Supreme Court ordering medical examination of the Calcutta high court judge Justice C S Karnan to determine his mental condition for his defiance

NEW DELHI,May2: The Justice C S Karnan case continues to make history with the Supreme Court on Monday ordering medical examination of the Calcutta high court judge to determine his mental condition in the face of his defiant refusal to appear before the SC in contempt proceedings. The order came even as the SC finds itself in a difficult situation in dealing with a sitting HC judge who has continued to commit contemptuous acts, rejecting the directions of the higher court and passing disparaging remarks against the seven-judge bench which is hearing the contempt plea against him.

The Bengal police has been directed to form a special team to ensure Karnan appears before a medical panel as the SC said it needed to deal with the judge rather than allow him to retire in June. The court said contempt proceedings would not end with his retirement on June 11. The bench of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur, P C Ghose and Kurian Joseph found Karnan absent despite its March 31 order directing him to be present before it on Monday.

The SC also took note of his recent order — issued despite being stripped of judicial work — directing initiation of contempt proceedings against the seven SC judges and imposing air travel restrictions on them. “Probably he is expecting all of us to present ourselves before him in Kolkata,” the CJI said in jest when attorney general Mukul Rohatgi pointed to continued contemptuous acts of the HC judge despite pending contempt proceedings.

But that was the only lighter moment in otherwise serious proceedings during which the SC came to the conclusion that “the orders passed by him are ex-facie and clearly contemptuous” and indicated that he may face an additional contempt of court case in future. “Ever since the initiation of these proceedings (on February 8), he has been expressing further disrespect to this court, he has also been making press statements with abject impunity,” the bench said and ordered that the purported judicial orders passed by Justice Karnan would not be given effect to by any authority in India.

The SC directed the director, health services, West Bengal, to constitute a board of doctors from Pavlov hospital, Kolkata, to examine Justice Karnan and submit a report by May 8. “The tenor of his press briefings and purported judicial orders passed by Justice Karnan, prima facie suggest that he may not be in a fit medical condition to defend himself in the present proceedings. We therefore consider it appropriate to require him to be medically examined before proceeding further,” the bench said.

Expecting trouble from Justice Karnan in submitting to the medical tests, the bench ordered the state director general of police to constitute a special police team to escort the judge for examination by the board of doctors. The court posted further hearing on May 9. The AG put the issue in perspective by asking if the court would have been so lenient to any litigant who defied SC orders even once. “Here is a judge who not only insinuates against other judges in most derogative manner, but also defies the SC’s orders repeatedly and passes orders routinely against Supreme Court judges,” he said.

 Appearing for Madras HC, where Justice Karnan had created ugly scenes by his allegations against fellow judges and the chief justice, senior advocate K K Venugopal said, “From his conduct, he does not appear to be in a position to defend himself. So, allow him to retire. Given the short time available, even if he was found to be mentally unfit, he could not be removed as he retires on June 11.” But the bench was not ready to sweep the problem under the carpet. It said, “This court should never shy away from dealing with an issue thrown at it. The court must deal with it head on. Justice Karnan’s retirement does not bring an end to these (contempt) proceedings.”
‘Won’t take any medical test’
Justice CS Karnan reacted sharply to the SC order saying he would not submit to any medical test, and that the order was erroneous, ridiculous and bad in law. “This kind of harassment order against my sanity is an additional insult to an innocent Dalit judge who is of sound health and mind,” he said. He also said, “If the DGP acts against me without my consent, I will pass an order against him. I set aside the SC order. My earlier suo motu order can’t be set aside by the seven-judge bench because they are the accused.”