SC sentences Justice Karnan to 6 months' jail for contempt

The Supreme Court created history today by holding a sitting judge – Justice C S Karnan of the Calcutta High Court - guilty of contempt of court and sentencing him to six months in jail.

Justice C S KarnanKarnan, who is to retire on 11 June, will spend the last month of his tenure as judge and five months thereafter in jail.

A seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar said Justice Karnan is guilty of contempt of the SC, the judiciary and the judicial process.

The court ordered the West Bengal Director General of Police to take into custody the disgraced judge, saying he never tired of playing on his dalit background to berate and pass unconscionable orders against the seven judges who had initiated contempt proceedings against him for making wild allegations against his colleagues in the Madras HC, from where he was transferred to the Calcutta HC.

Additional solicitor general Maninder Singh and senior advocates K K Venugopal and Rupinder Singh Suri agreed with the apex court that Justice Karnan has committed gross contempt of court and needed to be punished exemplarily.

Venugopal said if Justice Karnan is sent to jail now it would create a blemish in the history of the judiciary, and wondered if the court should wait till his retirement.

 But the Supreme Court said contempt power does not recognise or differentiate who is what - a judge or a common man. "Whosoever commits contempt gets punished," the bench said while sentencing Justice Karnan.

Justice Karnan was sentenced in absentia. Taking note of his purported judicial orders passed despite being stripped of judicial work, the Supreme Court also barred the media from reporting his statements in future.