SC issues bailable warrant against HC judge C S Karnan, judge calls it ‘unconstitutional’

Friday, Mar 10, 2017,13:03 IST By anju A A A

New Delhi/Kolkata | The Supreme Court today issued a bailable warrant against a sitting Calcutta High Court judge C S Karnan for non-appearance in a contempt case, an order unprecedented in the annals of Indian judiciary.

Justice Karnan hit back at the apex court over the warrant to ensure his presence before it on March 31, calling it “unconstitutional” and alleged he was being targetted for being a Dalit.

Justice Karnan goes down in the Indian judicial history as the first serving High Court judge against whom an arrest warrant has been issued by the apex court in a contempt case.

A seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar took strong note of Justice Karnan’s non-appearance despite being served with the contempt notice and asked the Director General of West Bengal Police to execute the warrants on the judge to ensure his presence at 10.30 AM on March 31.

The court said it would “appreciate” if the bailable warrant is served on Justice Karnan by the DGP.

“Notice of this petition has been duly served. Despite service, wherein the personal presence of Shri Justice C S Karnan, in this Court, was imperative, he has neither entered appearance in person, nor through counsel,” the bench, also comprising Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur, P C Ghose and Kurian Joseph, said.

“In view of the above, there is no other alternative but to seek the presence of Shri Justice C S Karnan by issuing bailable warrants. Ordered accordingly. Bailable warrants, in the sum of Rs 10,000, in the nature of a personal bond, to the satisfaction of the arresting officer, be issued, to ensure the presence of Shri Justice C S Karnan, in this Court, on March 31 at 10.30 A.M,” it said.

The bench during a 15-minute-long hearing that took place in the packed CJI’s courtroom referred to Justice Karnan’s fax message sent to the apex court registry on March 8 seeking a meeting with the CJI to discuss “certain administrative issues”.

It said the message “primarily seem to reflect the allegations levelled by him against certain named judges. The above fax message, dated March 8, cannot be considered as a response of Justice C S Karnan, either to the contempt petition, or to the notice served upon him.”

At the outset, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said that Justice Karnan had defied the Supreme Court order and the apex court rules on contempt provide for issuance of bailable and non-bailable warrants against a contemnor to ensure his presence.

Addressing a press conference at his residence in Kolkata, Justice Karnan said the apex court has “no locus standi” to issue a bailable warrant against a sitting judge.

“This is intentional and I am being targetted for being a Dalit. The warrant against me is unconstitutional,” he said.

“Consequently I ask the President of India to recall the bailable warrant illegally issued by the Supreme Court today against me and lift non-work allotment ban of portfolio allocation,” he said.

He also issued an ‘order’ of registration of a case under the appropriate sections of Schedule Caste and Scheduled Tribe (prevention of atrocities) Act, 1989 on Chief Justice of India Justice J S Khehar and six other judges.

Eminent jurist Soli Sorabjee said he was distressed at Justice Karnan’s action.

“This is a very sad thing. I am very distressed. It’s sad that a judge is making such allegations. Allegation against judges in front of media. A person who is a judge who has taken oath upholding the laws and Constitution of the country to make allegations like this.

The SC has no other way but to take action and it’s right. He is only aggravating his contempt. Making it worse,” he said.