Restore my work or send me to jail: Justice Karnan

Justice C S Karnan of the Calcutta High Court, accused of contempt of court, appeared before the Supreme Court today, continuing to be defiant.

Justice Karnan refused to apologise for accusing 20 top judges of corruption, which provoked the court to start the contempt case, and demanded that judicial work taken from him in February be restored. When the seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Jagdish Singh Khehar declined, the 61-year-old judge declared he would not appear before the court again and dared the court to "send me to jail".

Karnan, a Dalit, is the first judge to face contempt proceedings and have a bailable warrant issued against him. He had responded to the initial summons from the top court by 'ordering' the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe Supreme Court judges for atrocities against him.

On his way out after Friday's hearing, the judge also said he would 'order' the Supreme Court Registrar not to allocate any work to the seven judges including the Chief Justice of India "as they are in contempt of my order".

At the hearing, the Supreme Court bench asked Justice Karnan if he was mentally fit, and has given him four weeks to file a written response to the contempt of court notice first issued to him on 8 February.

"Restore my work or next time, I will not appear before your court," the combative judge demanded, angry that warrants were issued against him. "I am not a terrorist or anti-social person".

The hearing had started with the bench giving him an opportunity to withdraw his complaint.

"Do you stand by your complaint against the 20 judges, or do you wish to withdraw your complaint and unconditionally apologise," the bench asked him. He refused the offer, insisting that the complaint he had given "was very much under the law".  The court, shot back, "Despite being a judge you don't know the procedure."

Chief Justice Khehar also wondered if he was "mentally fit" to understand the gravity of the contempt proceedings. "We can see that his mind is not clear and he is not able to comprehend what he is doing," the Bench observed. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, however, added: "There is no question of non-comprehension, he is very clear."

The court had taken a dim view of his complaints against 20 sitting and retired judges to curb what he had called "high corruption" in the judiciary. When he did not respond to summons, the top court was issued a bailable warrant served on him by the Kolkata Police Commissioner.

Justice Karnan had last year stayed his own transfer from the Madras High Court to Kolkata but later apologised, saying he had issued an erroneous order due to his "mental frustration resulting in the loss of his mental balance."