Supreme Court gives Justice Karnan 4 weeks to decide on trial or apology; he passes order on SC judges for violating 'principal of natural justice'

Arkadev Ghoshal
Justice CS Karnan, first sitting HC judge to be sentenced by SC, retires today while still absconding

Calcutta High Court judge Justice Karnan was given four weeks' time to give a written submission to the Supreme Court whether he wanted to unconditionally apologise or continue to reaffirm his allegations against 20 judges, even as he offered to go to jail. 

Also read: SC issues contempt notice to controversial Calcutta HC judge CS Karnan

He was appearing before a seven-judge bench of the apex court, presided over by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Justice JS Khehar, on Friday, March 31, in a case of contempt of court against him. After the court order, he went on to pass an order of his own, in which he accused the seven SC judges of violating the "principal of natural justice".

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Justice Karnan appeared in court on Friday and began by making his oral submissions, saying his complaints were never addressed, even though he was fighting for the general welfare and not personal gain. He also repeated his allegations against the judges he claimed were corrupt and said: "I am innocent. I have not done anything wrong."

Justice Karnan also said: "I can prove my case if honourable court allows me to. I am not fighting against the judiciary; I am fighting against corruption." At this, Justice J Chelameshwar advised Justice Karnan to take the help of a lawyer to prove his case.

The seven-judge bench then asked him whether he wanted to go with his March 25 letter, wherein he apologised unconditionally or wanted to reaffirm his allegations. The court also reminded him that if he reaffirmed his allegations, the case could go to trial. 

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Justice Karnan replied: "I am not a contemnor in the first instance. I have done no wrong. Your Lordships did not give me notice before issuing suo motu contempt." He added: "My work should be restored. I am answerable to the general public." 

The Supreme Court bench, however, concluded at this that Justice Karnan was conflicted and had not comprehended what he was being told. It observed that while he had earlier submitted a letter of unconditional apology, he was now reaffirming his charges against 20 judges. The SC bench consulted Attorney General (AG) Mukul Rohatgi multiple times before reaching this conclusion. 

Then the topic of the bailable warrant issued against Justice Karnan by the SC came up, and he said he holds a constitutional office, and "the police go to an accused office, not to a constitutional office." The apex court replied that the warrant had been issued because he had not put in an appearance when he had first been summoned. 

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As it was decided that Justice Karnan had not been able to comprehend what he was being asked and what he was saying, he was given four weeks to put in a written submission on how he wanted to proceed. 

It may be noted that Karnan had earlier said he was being targeted by the apex court because he was a Dalit. However, he did not make any mention of this in court on Friday.

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