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The Supreme Court has published the judgment in the contempt case against Justice CS Karnan.
The judgment was delivered by a Bench of Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justices Dipak Misra, Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur, Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Kurian Joseph. Justices Chelameswar and Gogoi wrote separate concurring judgment.
The detailed judgment has been pronounced nearly two months after the order was delivered holding Karnan J. in contempt. One of the judges on the Bench, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose, has already retired from service.
Interestingly, the concurring judgment by Chelameswar J. and Gogoi J. contains some very interesting observations regarding the appointment process of judges to constitutional courts with the apex court admitting that the current process has to be revisited.
Both Chelameswar and Gogoi JJ., who are part of the Collegium, have observed,
“This case, in our opinion, has importance extending beyond the immediate problem. This case highlights two things, (1) the need to revisit the process of selection and appointment of judges to the constitutional courts, for that matter any member of the judiciary at all levels; and (2) the need to set up appropriate legal regime to deal with situations where the conduct of a Judge of a constitutional court requires corrective measures – other than impeachment – to be taken.”
The two judges have also lamented at how the conduct of Justice Karnan caused embarrassment to the judiciary.
“We are only sad to point out that apart from the embarrassment that this entire episode has caused to the Indian Judiciary, there are various other instances (mercifully which are less known to the public) of conduct of some of the members of the judiciary which certainly would cause some embarrassment to the system”
Besides the above, the two judges have also set out another issue – the lack of a procedure, other than impeachment, for dealing with erring judges. The judgment states,
“..the standards and procedure for impeachment of judges are much more rigorous for reasons obvious. There can be deviations in the conduct of the holders of the offices of constitutional courts which do not strictly call for impeachment of the individual or such impeachment is not feasible. Surely there must be other ways of dealing with such cases. The text of the Constitution is silent in this regard. May be it is time for the nation to debate this issue.”
The majority judgment authored by Chief Justice JS Khehar has cited various infractions of Justice Karnan and how it turned the judiciary into a laughing stock. The judgment also berates the media for riding on the “Karnan wave”.
“The contents of the letters addressed by him contained scandalous material against Judges of High Courts and the Supreme Court. This correspondence was addressed to the highest constitutional authorities, in all three wings of governance – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. His public utterances, turned the judicial system into a laughing stock. The local media, unmindful of the damage it was causing to the judicial institution, merrily rode the Karnan wave. Even the foreign media, had its dig at the Indian judiciary. None of his actions can be considered as bona fide, especially in view of the express directions issued by this Court on 8.2.2017, requiring him to refrain from discharging any judicial or administrative work.”
The judgment also refers to the judge shielding himself by trumpeting his position, as belonging to an under-privileged caste.
“We are of the considered view, that Justice Karnan shielded himself from actions, by trumpeting his position, as belonging to an under-privileged caste. By assuming the above position, he levelled obnoxious allegations against innumerable Judges of the Supreme Court, Chief Justices of the High Courts, but mostly against Judges of the Madras High Court.”
Concluding that none of the allegations by Justice Karnan was supported by any material, the Court proceeded to hold him guilty of contempt of court.
“None of the allegations levelled by Justice Karnan were supported by any material. His allegations were malicious and defamatory, and pointedly by name, against many of the concerned Judges. He carried his insinuations to the public at large, in the first instance, by endorsing his letters carefully so as to widely circulate the contents of his communications, to the desired circles.
..we have no hesitation in concluding, that the actions of Shri Justice C.S. Karnan constituted the grossest and gravest actions of contempt of Court. He has also committed contempt, in the face of the Court. He is therefore liable to be punished, for his unsavoury actions and behavior. We are satisfied that he should be punished for his above actions, with imprisonment for six months.”
Read the judgment below.