Supreme Court issues bailable warrant against Calcutta HC judge CS Karnan for contempt

Justice Karnan has been accused of writing disparaging letters to the Prime Minister, Law Minister, Supreme Court Registrar about sitting and retired top court and High Court judges.

The Supreme Court today issued a bailable warrant against Calcutta High Court judge CS Karnan for showing contempt to the apex court by not appearing before it as ordered.

A seven-judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar also asked Justice Karnan to furnish a personal bond of Rs 10,000 and appear before it on March 31.

The Supreme Court has directed the West Bengal Director General of Police to personally execute the warrant against Justice Karnan to ensure his appearance before it on March 31.

The order came as Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that Justice Karnan has refused to appear before the court in contempt case and under the Supreme Court Rules, if a person does not appear, a bailable warrant be issues against him.

On February 8, the Supreme Court had, in an unprecedented move, issued the contempt notice to a sitting High Court judge and had asked Justice Karnan to appear on February 13, which he didn't.

The issuance of the contempt notice to Justice Karnan was significant as it was for the first time in the history of the Supreme Court that it had invoked powers to initiate contempt proceedings against a sitting judge of a High Court.

Justice Karnan is accused of writing disparaging letters to the Prime Minister, Law Minister, Supreme Court Registrar about sitting and retired top court and High Court judges. In case of some judges, Justice Karnan had even levelled the allegation of corruption and caste discrimination.

Justice Karnan had also stayed the top court collegium's decision transferring him from Madras High Court to Calcutta High Court.

At the outset of the hearing, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi has told the apex court that the nature of various communications by Justice Karnan were "very very scandalous" and "embarrassing" and the "time has come for this court to act". He urged the court to act so that a clear message should go to the citizens that the top court will not hesitate in taking action against its own judge in the High Court.

AG said that the top court was empowered under Article 129 of the Constitution read with Article 142(2) to punish the High Court judges and the members of subordinate judiciary.

However, Chief Justice Khehar said that since it was happening for the first time. "We must be as careful as we can be. We have to see what we can so, what we can't do... it is a vital issue. We have to see cause and effect," said Chief Justice Khehar.

"This is presumptuous. You are presuming," the bench said. "We are receiving letters from him for a long time. Suppose if he denies writing letters, it will change the situation. We will have to hear him and we have to hear every one," the bench added.