Karnan fails to appear in SC on contempt notice


The Supreme Court though briefly toying with options like issuing a bailable warrant against sitting Calcutta High Court judge C.S.Karnan, on Monday, settled to wait for another three weeks for the judge to explain his defiance of a judicial direction to be present in court. Justice Karnan was directed to be present in court on Monday. But he failed to do so.
A seven-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar said Justice Karnan has neither indicated any reason for his non-appearance in a letter he wrote the Registrar General of the Supreme Court on February 10, after contempt notice was issued against him on February 8, nor has he filed any application in the historic hearing where for the first time in independent India a sitting HC judge is facing criminal contempt.
The Bench also comprises Justices Misra, J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur, P.C. Ghose and Kurian Joseph.
Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi advised the Bench to formally frame the criminal contempt charge against Justice Karnan.
Mr. Rohatgi, referring to the February 10 letter from Justice Karnan which invoked that the contempt proceedings violated principles of natural justice and went on to make further disparaging remarks about the judiciary, said show cause notice should now be issued to the judge on the specific charge that the letter was “calculated to lower the dignity of the judicial institution”.
To this, Justice Misra said there are two options available, “one, give him another opportunity to come and explain himself. Two, issue bailable warrant against him”.
But Chief Justice Khehar sought to tread with caution, “for the time being, we will defer the proceedings. Consequences are great. We will ask him some questions and let him respond to these questions. Then we will proceed”.
In his submissions, Mr. Rohatgi said the February 10 letter “aggravated” the position in the case.
“The letter is on WhatsApp. It is with the media. It is written on his letterhead. Rantings of a senior judge like this does not behold the institution… public confidence requires the court to act against its own. We are sorry that this has come to such a pass,” Mr. Rohatgi submitted.
“He has not said he will not appear. He has said that he was not granted appropriate time. If it is a reasonable request we will do so,” Chief Justice Khehar had responded.


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