CHENNAI /NEW DELHI: On a day of unprecedented developments that bordered on the bizarre, a judge of the Madras High Court stayed the transfer order issued to him by the Chief Justice of India, even asking the latter to submit his written statement, while a division bench of the Supreme Court directed the Chief Justice of the High Court not to assign him any judicial work.
Enraged by the bar, the judge, Justice C S Karnan, a controversial figure, told the media at a hurriedly convened press conference that he would direct the city police commissioner to register an FIR against the two judges of the apex court under provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The trigger for the trouble was the order transferring Justice Karnan to the High Court of Calcutta issued on February 12. The judge was not willing to accept it, and instead decided to take action on it suo motu and listed the matter for Monday.
In the morning, the registrar of the High Court, also the private secretary of the chief justice, moved the Supreme Court with a petition seeking to restrain Justice Karnan from undertaking any judicial work.
When the petition came up before it, a division bench of the Supreme Court comprising justices J S Khehar and R Banumathi directed the chief justice of Madras High Court not to assign any judicial work to him.
A little later in Chennai, Justice Karnan took up the matter and passed a suo motu order staying his transfer. He contended that the transfer order was against the verdict of a nine-judge bench of the Supreme Court in a 1993 case, and stayed its operation invoking Article 226 of the Constitution.
Going a step forward, he asked the Chief Justice of India “to submit your written statement on the said issue through your subordinates by April 29. Till such time, this interim order may be operated upon”.
Soon after, Justice Karnan invited the media to his chambers. When he was informed that the CISF personnel would not allow cameramen into the HC premises, Justice Karnan removed his robes, came out of his chambers, walked down the stairs to an open area where there was no restriction and addressed the media.
“Only allocation of judicial work has been stopped. My judicial powers are still there with me. I will pass a suo motu judicial order to the Chennai City Police Commissioner to register an FIR against the two judges,” Justice Karnan retorted.
He said he would drag all the judges who had been insulting him to Parliament for a debate. “Let Parliament decide. I’m innocent,” he claimed.
Meanwhile, the matter returned to the Supreme Court, where senior counsel K K Venugopal representing the High Court informed it about Justice Karnan’s suo motu order in the morning. The division bench then modified its order, stating that Justice Karnan should hear and dispose of only those matters assigned to him by the Chief Justice of the High Court.
“No other orders shall be passed by Justice C S Karnan, suo motu or otherwise, in any matter not specially assigned to him,” said the updated order. The order further stated that if Justice Karnan wanted to appear before it in the case, he can do so on March 9 when the matter will be taken up again for hearing.
The apex court had on May 11 last year stayed an interim order passed by Justice Karnan, allegedly undermining the authority of High Court Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul in a case relating to the appointment of officers of the lower judiciary. Justice Karnan had triggered a row by threatening to file a contempt of court case against Justice Kaul and another one under the provisions of the SC/ST Atrocities (Prevention) Act, in unsigned letters to the High Court Chief Justice.
Justice Karnan had stated in the letters that he was suo motu staying the administrative order of the Chief Justice with regard to selection of civil judges.
The Madras High Court registry had moved the Supreme Court seeking stay of the order passed by Justice Karnan. In the plea, the High Court registry had said that on April 16, Justice Karnan suo motu passed an order, questioning the nomination of one of the judges, Justice V Dhanapalan, to the selection committee for the process for recruitment of 162 Civil Judges, which had been initiated by the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission on August 26, 2014.
On July 17, 2013, Justice Karnan held that rituals don’t mean wedding unless the union is sexually consummated. Excerpts from the verdict
This court is of the view that if a woman aged 18 or above has a sexual relationship with a man, aged 21 or above, and during the course of such relationship, if the woman becomes pregnant, she would henceforth be treated as the ‘wife’ and the man would be treated as the ‘husband’
Even if the girl does not become pregnant after having such sexual relationship with a man but if there is strong documentary evidence to show the existence of such relationship then also the couple involved in such acts would be termed as “wife” and “husband”
If the consummation has taken place between the spouses (bachelors and spinsters) then from that time onwards both are declared husband and wife
As Justice Karnan got himself entangled in another Controversy, this time with the chief justice of india, a look at The various bombshells he has dropped
NOV, 2011: Says he was abused by judges as he was a Dalit. Lodges plaint with Nat’l Commis-sion for SC/ST
JUNE, 2013: Passes order if couple in right legal age indulges in sexual gratification, it’ll be considered marriage
JANUARY, 2014: Storms into a courtroom, tells the bench that the selection of 12 candidates for appointment of additional judges was unfair
JANUARY, 2014: Shoots off complaint to the National SC/ST Commission, seeking action against Chief Justice R K Agrawal, accusing him of discrimination. Justice Agrawal had written to CJI seeking Justice Karnan’s transfer
February, 2014: Names his tormentors in the Bench, who allegedly harassed and ill-treated him. In a communication addressed to a Supreme Court judge, Justice Karnan said it was he (the SC judge) and a retired woman judge and male judge, besides a few others, who have been heaping insults on him
JUNE, 2014: Leaves advocates stunned by summoning the Registrar General Pon Kalaiyarasan and Additional Deputy Commissioner K N Murali into the hall. Informs them that he received a threat call at his residence to his landline. “It could have been one of those against whom I have lodged complaints in the past,” he said
MAY 9, 2015: Plunges the Madras High Court into an unprecedented crisis, threatening contempt of court proceedings against HC Chief Justice Sanjay K Kaul. Justice Karnan accused Chief Justice Kaul of interfering in his judicial work. He also sought a CBI probe into alleged forged educational certificates of another judge of the court
MAY 11, 2015: Shoots off a letter to CBI joint director seeking an inquiry into education qualification of one of the HC judges on selection panel (for appointment of judges to lower level judiciary). It was dated May 11, the day when the SC issued a blanket stay on his earlier order on a suo motu petition in connection with appointment of junior judicial officers
MAY 13, 2015: Justice Karnan asks Registrar General of the court to sanction `5 lakh to meet the legal expenses to defend his case (regarding education qualification of one of the Madras High Court judges) before the SC. Justice Karnan had claimed that the said judge had submitted bogus certificates and obtained the position of judge at the HC
MAY 14, 2015: Accuses a brother judge of sexually assaulting an intern in the High Court premises. “I have preferred several representations to your Lordship regarding the conduction of enquiry on the custodial rape committed by Mr Justice XXXXXX (name withheld) on the law intern Miss XXXXX (name withheld) at the Madras High Court,” said Justice Karnan in a letter, this time to the CJ of the Madras HC