In a development that marks a first in the history of Indian judiciary, a sitting judge of the Calcutta High Court was today found guilty of contempt of court and will now face prison time. The Supreme Court today held Justice CS Karnan guilty of contempt and sentenced him to six months of imprisonment, while ordering the Kolkata police chief to arrest him immediately.
Justice Karnan becomes the first judge to be convicted of contempt while still holding office.
The ruling came when seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar was hearing the contempt petition against Karnan.
The SC bench asserted that if Justice Karnan is not sent to jail, “there will be blemish that SC condoned contempt by a judge”.
Taking a strong note of Justice Karnan’s controversial remarks against Supreme Court and Madras High Court judges, additional solicitor general Maninder Singh, senior advocate K K Venugopal and Rupinder Singh Suri said that he needs to be punished.
In its order today, the top court also barred media outlets from publishing either the content of orders passed by Justice Karnan or any comment made by him.
Yesterday, Justice Karnan had sentenced CJI Khehar, along with six other SC judges to five-year rigorous imprisonment after holding them guilty under the SC/ST Atrocities Act-1989 and amended Act of 2015.
Along with the CJI, six judges - Justice Dipak Misra, Justice J. Chelameswar, Justice Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Kurian Joseph - had initiated suo motu contempt proceedings against Justice Karnan in February after he had named 20 "corrupt judges," seeking a probe against them.
On May 1, in response to the apex court ordering an examination of his 'mental health', Justice Karnan asserted that he would issue a suo moto suspension order against West Bengal Director General of Police (DGP) if he forcefully conducted a medical checkup.
Karnan further asserted that the DGP should take all the seven accused judges for medical test too.
Earlier, the apex court constituted a medical board to examine the mental condition of Justice Karnan on May 5 and also directed the DG West Bengal to assist the medical board to get justice Karnan examined. Justice Karnan had refused to undertake that test.
The Supreme Court said in its order that High Courts, any tribunal and authority would not take any cognizance on the orders passed by Justice Karnan.
The apex court has taken suo motu cognisance of various letters written by Justice Karnan against judges of the Madras High Court and the Supreme Court and restrained him from exercising administrative and judicial power from February 8.
Justice Karnan appeared before the Supreme Court on March 31 in connection with the contempt proceeding, becoming the first HC judge to do so in the history of Indian judiciary.