NEW DELHI: For the first time in the history of Indian Judiciary, the Supreme Court on Tuesday send Justice CS Karnan, the sitting judge of Calcutta High Court to jail for six months after holding him guilty for the contempt of court.
A seven judge bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said, “Contempt has no colour, no individual, no public, no private. We can’t distinguish. If he is not sent to jail, there will be blemish that we condoned contempt by a judge.”
“We are of the unanimous view that judiciary and judicial process of the gravest nature in the present case,” the bench said while asking the DGP, Calcutta to constitute a committee and arrest Justice Karnan forthwith.
At the outset of the hearing, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for West Bengal, said in compliance of apex court's earlier direction, a medical board along with the DGP and police personnel had gone to Justice Karnan's place but he gave a letter saying he was fit and of a sound mind.
Dwivedi read out the letter to the bench.
ASG Maninder Singh told the bench that Justice Karnan knows what he is doing and he needs to be punished for contempt of court as he has passed several orders against the judges of the apex court.
Justice Karnan did not mark his presence before the apex court on Tuesday too.
The judicial bench also restrained print and electronic media from publishing any statements made by the Calcutta High Court judge.
Senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for Registrar General of Madras High Court, said that if Justice Karnan is sent to jail, it would create a blemish of a sitting judge being sent to jail for contempt.
The order comes days after the apex court had called for medical examination of Justice Karnan, which he denied stating he was of sound mind and the team of doctors too did not opine otherwise.
The bench also said there was no question about the visit medical board having visited him (Karnan).
"We are assured that he is fit and fine and the medical board does not contradict it," the bench said.
The ASG said that he has passed an order yesterday that he is not in contempt of court.
"Some action should be taken against him so that an appropriate message is sent," he said.
The court also took exception of the orders passed by Justice Karnan yesterday when he sentenced seven judges including CJI Khehar to five years of imprisonment under the SC/ST act and termed it the “gravest form of contempt.”
The bench said the contempt power does not recognise who is what, whether he is a judge and individual or a private person and that it is simple contempt.
"If we do not send him to jail, there will be a blemish that Supreme Court has condoned the contempt committed by a judge," the bench said.
It also added that Justice Karnan can be punished as he has himself declared that he was of sound mind and the medical board has not contradicted it.
Justice Karnan was earlier facing contempt proceedings for accusing a number of judges of corruption.
The apex court had on March 10 issued a bailable warrant against Justice Karnan to ensure his presence before it in the contempt case. The warrant had come almost a month after the court had asked Justice Karnan to appear in person and explain why contempt proceedings not be initiated against him.
On March 31, Justice Karnan had appeared in the Supreme Court, a first in Indian judicial history, and had sought restoration of his powers as a condition for his re- appearance, but the plea was rejected.
He had also said he would not appear before it again even if he was arrested and put in jail.
Justice Karnan was transferred from the Madras HC to the Calcutta HC for his conduct. A recalcitrant Karnan had on February 15, 2016 stayed his transfer order. The apex court
even asked the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court not to assign any judicial work to him.
The same day the apex court had suspended Justice Karnan's order. The Supreme Court also made it clear that all administrative and judicial orders passed by him after the issuance of the order of his transfer shall remain stayed.
Justice Karnan is scheduled to retire in June this year.
(With Inputs From PTI)