The Calcutta High Court judge’s , Justice Karnan, ‘order’ summoning the Chief Justice of India and six judges of the Supreme Court to his ‘residential court’ to face punishment under the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, is yet another unacceptable affront to the apex court’s authority.
Last year act of Justice Karnan
Justice Karnan’s conduct goes against the assurance he gave the Chief Justice of India last year that he would foster a “harmonious attitude towards one and all”. At that time, he had expressed regret for passing a suo motu order staying his own transfer from the Madras High Court to the Calcutta High Court, admitting that it was an “erroneous order” passed due to “mental frustration, resulting in loss of mental balance”.
Reason for recent response
The latest instance of his misconduct is in response to the contempt proceedings initiated against him by the Supreme Court for denigrating the judicial institution by making sweeping allegations, in a letter to the Prime Minister, against several judges. He had appeared in person before a seven-judge Bench on March 31, and was given four weeks to respond to the charge of contempt of court. It is quite apparent that he is only further damaging his own case.
Past Acts of Justice Karnan
The recalcitrant judge has a long history of alleging corruption among other judges, accusing some of caste discrimination against him, and often invoking his caste identity to take complaints against his peers and even Chief Justices to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes. In the past, he has passed judicial orders on matters pertaining to the selection of judges, even after being barred by a Division Bench from hearing them. He had once barged into a court during a hearing, and on another occasion into the chamber of the Madras High Court Chief Justice, “hurling a volley of invectives”.
An Opportunity to improve selection process in Judiciary
Public criticism, transfer to another High Court, being hauled up for contempt and being denied judicial work — nothing seems to restrain him. The only option left is impeachment, but it is a political process involving Parliament and is something he himself may want so he can give full play to his alleged grievances, including those based on his caste. Justice Karnan’s case vividly exposes the inadequacies of the collegium system of appointments. Nothing makes a better case for the infusion of greater transparency in the selection of judges than his current presence in the High Court.
(Adapted from The Hindu Editorial)