In an act of clear defiance, Justice C S Karnan, a sitting judge of the Calcutta High Court, on Monday defied orders of the Supreme Court to appear before it in connection with suo motu contempt proceedings, with neither him nor his lawyer turning up presenting themselves.
The Supreme Court had in the previous hearing asked Justice Karnan to appear before it in person on Monday over contempt proceedings initiated against him by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar for leveling serious allegations against the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court among others.
During the hearing today, Madras High Court counsel K K Venugopal underscored the severity of the charges against Justice Karnan, saying the Calcutta HC judge had levelled malicious rape charges against a Madras HC judge.
Venugopal also told the Supreme Court that the high court judges needed protection from the continuous onslaught of Justice Karnan's verbal abuse and wild charges.
Meanwhile, the seven-judge bench has decided to grant Justice Karnan more time to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him. The apex court has given Karnan until March 10 to respond to the contempt notice served against him.
The initiation of contempt proceedings taken up suo motu by the Supreme Court marked a first in India’s history where a constitutional court initiated contempt proceedings against a judge of the Supreme Court or high courts.
Reacting to the proceedings against him, Karnan accused the top court of harbouring a caste bias against him.
Justice Karnan, in his communication of February 10, had reportedly played the Dalit card and asked the Supreme Court to refer the matter to Parliament, contending that the contempt proceedings were "not sustainable".
"Before obtaining any explanation from me, I wish to state that the Courts have no power to enforce punishment against a sitting judge of the High Court. The said order does not conform to logic, therefore it is not suitable for execution," he has said in response to the order of the bench headed by the CJI.
The apex court had earlier issued him the show cause notice for today and forthwith restrained him from undertaking judicial and administrative work.
"Issue notice to Justice C S Karnan. Returnable on February 13. Shree Justice C S Karnan shall forthwith refrain from handling any judicial or administrative work as may have been assigned to him," the court had said.
Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi had referred to the nature of public communications allegedly undertaken by Justice Karnan and said they are "slanderous" and "disparaging" to the system of administration of justice.
The AG had referred to constitutional provisions and said that the apex court can take judicial note of the matter and is empowered to pass such an order.
Justice Karnan was transferred from the Madras HC to the Calcutta HC for his alleged contemptuous conduct. He had on February 15, 2016 stayed his transfer order after the apex court asked the Chief Justice of Madras High Court not to assign any judicial work to him.
The same day the apex court had suspended Justice Karnan's order and made it clear that all administrative and judicial orders passed by him after the issuance of the proposal of his transfer from the Madras High Court to the Calcutta High Court shall remain stayed till further orders.
However, a week later, the judge had said that he had issued an "erroneous" order due to his "mental frustration resulting in loss of his mental balance".