Supreme Court refuses to stay arrest of Justice Karnan

The Asian Age.  | J Venkatesan

India, All India

The Supreme Court said a “conscious decision” was taken by seven of its judges to sentence Justice Karnan to six months imprisonment.

Calcutta High Court Justice C.S. Karnan (Photo: PTI)

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday refused to consider the plea of Calcutta high court judge Justice C.S. Karnan to stay his arrest following conviction for six months imprisonment for contempt of court.

The Supreme Court said a “conscious decision” was taken by seven of its judges to sentence Justice Karnan to six months imprisonment. “The seven judges assembled to take a conscious decision (to send him to jail). We have permitted you (yesterday) to file the petition. Whatever you want to file, you file in the Registry. We will not accept across the table,” a bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar said.

He made the statement when advocate Mathews J. Nedumpara, on behalf of Justice Karnan, mentioned the plea for recall of the May 9 order when the bench had come to the dias after lunch to hear the triple talaq matter.

However, the advocate said, “I am addressing the CJI only” and added that the plea related to suspension of sentence of Justice Karnan. He said the Contempt of Courts Act provides for tendering an apology which may be considered by the court.

The CJI shot back “why you are coming here everytime? Go and give it (original copy of petition) to the registry. You are not accepting any one-off procedure. You are only putting your ‘danda’ (stick) here. It does not work here”.

After this observation, the advocate withdrew himself as the bench resumed the post-lunch hearing on triple talaq. In his petition Justice Karnan said that the entire proceeding from February 8, when contempt notice was issued by the court, is without jurisdiction.

He said from a mere reading of the provisions of Contempt of Courts Act, it is manifest that what could constitute a criminal contempt is any “publication” which scandalises, or tends to scandalise, or lowers or tends to lower the authority of, any court.  

Justice Karnan said the allegations contained in the said letter are against the Judges named therein and not against any court – neither the high court of Madras nor the Supreme Court. If the said allegations are untrue, they would at the most amount to defamation which will entail an actionable right, both civil and criminal, in the Judges named in the said letter. Under the laws of the land, the Judges named in the said letter have every right to proceed against the Petitioner under civil and criminal law.  However, none of them has chosen to do so for reasons better known to them.

Instead, he said the Hon’ble CJI was pleased to take suo motu cognizance, apparently invoking Section 15 of the CC Act. The allegation against him having failed to meet the essential ingredients of Section 2(c) of the CC Act, the entire proceeding against him is not maintainable. The May 9 order sending him to jail for six months was passed in his absence, he pointed out and sought a declaration that the contempt notice issued on February 8 is void and to recall the order and as an interim measure stay of all proceedings pursuant to the notice.