New Delhi: In an unprecedented order, the Supreme Court on Tuesday held Calcutta High Court's Justice CS Karnan guilty of contempt of court and ordered that he be jailed for six months.
The SC further ordered that Justice Karnan be taken into custody immediately. The Director General of West Bengal Police has been ordered to form a team for the implementation of its order "forthwith".
Holding Karnan guilty of contempt for his utterances against the Chief Justice of India and other judges of the apex court and the Madras High Court, a seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar has barred the electronic and print media from carrying any of his statements.
"We are of the unanimous view that Justice CS Karnan is guilty of contempt of court and interfered with judicial process of grievous nature," the court said in its order.
The bench, which also comprised Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, MB Lokur, PC Ghose and Kurian Joseph, also said it was satisfied in punishing him and sending him to jail for six months.
Karnan had written a series of letters making allegations against the judges of the apex court and the high court.
At the outset of the hearing, senior advocate Rakesh Dwivedi, appearing for West Bengal, said in compliance of apex court's earlier direction, a medical board along with the DGP and police personnel had gone to Justice Karnan's place but he gave a letter saying he was fit and of a sound mind.
Dwivedi read out the letter to the bench.
ASG Maninder Singh told the bench that Justice Karnan knows what he is doing and he needs to be punished for contempt of court as he has passed several orders against the judges of the apex court.
Senior advocate KK Venugopal, appearing for Registrar General of Madras High Court, said that if Justice Karnan is sent to jail, it would create a blemish of a sitting judge being sent to jail for contempt.
The bench then said that Karnan was medically fit as it noted that the Calcutta High Court judge did not co-operate with the medical team that was set-up on the court's order on May 04 to examine him.
It also said that the medical team too has not given any statement against Karnan.
"We are assured that he is fit and fine and the medical board does not contradict it," the bench said.
The ASG said that he passed an order yesterday that he is not in contempt of court. "Some action should be taken against him so that an appropriate message is sent," he said.
The bench said the contempt power does not recognise who is what, whether he is a judge and individual or a private person and that it is simple contempt.
"If we do not send him to jail, there will be a blemish that Supreme Court has condoned the contempt committed by a judge," the bench said.
It said Justice Karnan can be punished as he has himself declared that he was of sound mind and the medical board has not contradicted it.
Justice Karnan had yesterday 'sentenced' Chief Justice of India JS Khehar and seven other judges of the Supreme Court to five years rigorous imprisonment.
The apex court had on May 01 directed medical check-up of Justice Karnan by doctors with police support, as the judge did not appear before it.
The judge had on May 04 declined to undergo a mental health check-up as ordered by the SC, telling a team of doctors he is "absolutely normal" and has a "stable mind".
The apex court had on March 10 issued a bailable warrant against Justice Karnan to ensure his presence before it in the contempt case. The warrant had come almost a month after the court had asked Justice Karnan to appear in person and explain why contempt proceedings not be initiated against him.
On March 31, Justice Karnan had appeared in the Supreme Court, a first in Indian judicial history, and had sought restoration of his powers as a condition for his re-appearance, but the plea was rejected.
He had also said he would not appear before it again even if he was arrested and put in jail.
Justice Karnan was transferred from the Madras HC to the Calcutta HC for his conduct. A recalcitrant Karnan had on February 15, 2016, stayed his transfer order. The apex court even asked the Chief Justice of the Madras High Court not to assign any judicial work to him.
The same day the apex court had suspended Justice Karnan's order. The Supreme Court also made it clear that all administrative and judicial orders passed by him after the issuance of the order of his transfer shall remain stayed.
(With Agency inputs)