A Defiant Justice Karnan Likely to Be Retired Prematurely
Justice Chinnaswamy Swaminathan Karnan of the Calcutta High Court firmly refused to undergo a medical examination by a panel of doctors as ordered by the Supreme Court on the ground that he was of sound mind and there was nothing wrong with him.
When the doctors arrived at his residence in Kolkata on Wednesday morning, Justice Karnan extended all the courtesies by inviting them to his official residence and offered them tea. The judge stuck to his stand there was no problem with him which left the Doctors no option but to make their exit.
Justice Karnan had taken the audacious step of ordering non-bailalble warrants against the Chief Justice of India J S Khehar and six other judges of the Supreme Cout on May 02. This has probably sealed his fate of being retired prematurely.
. There have been any number of compelling reasons for the Apex court to take the unprecedented step of ordering a medical examination of Justice KarnanHe has refused to undergo a medical check up in connection with a contempt case against him.
Ever since he was appointed a judge of the Madras High Court on March 30, 2009, he has proved to be highly embarrassing and a thorn in the flesh for brother judges as well has higher authorities. The tough posturing of Justice Karnan has been highly embarrassing. The bee in his bonnet is his claim of being subjugated and ill treated by his brother judges because he is a Dalit. Some of the judges of the Madras High Court were scared of him.
When the Supreme Court restrained Justice Karnan from exercising his judicial and administrative powers after February 8, he threatened to pass "suo-moto suspension order against the DGP of West Bengal if he functions against my wish." He also passed several retaliatory orders against the seven judges of the Supreme Court.
In the prevailing circumstances the Apex court had to step in and act firmly: The Chief Justice of India Justice Khehar observed earlier this week on Monday: "...anybody can play this trick on us? Say something and then feign to be ill. We have to deal with it so that it cannot happen again."
Justice Karnan was scheduled to undergo a medical examination yesterday on Thursday in Kolkata and a report to be submitted on or before May 8. The Bench fixed May 9 for further hearing and passing order on the merits as well as disposing the case.
The seven judge bench said the statements and the orders passed by Justice Karnan "indicate that he may not be in a position to defend himself in these proceedings."
Faced with a contempt charge, Justice Karnan had on March 31 dared the Supreme Court to send him to jail after it refused to restore his judicial and administrative work. The bench had directed all courts and authorities not to take cognizance of orders passed by Karnan after February 8. Justice Karnan had also dubbed as "autocratic" the collegium system of selecting judges. In November 2015 he went on long leave, dissatisfied over the allocation of "insignificant or dummy" portfolios given to him. The proverbial last straw for him came when the Madras High Court Registry sought the Supreme Court's intervention after Justice Karnan accused the sitting Chief Justice of caste discrimination.
Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi and K K Venugopal appearing on behalf of the Madras High Court underlined the need to make an example of Justice Karnan so that a strong message is sent to all those making scandalous allegations. Justice Karnan is calculatedly making such allegations ridiculing the Judiciary.
Venugopal argued that Justice Karnan should be allowed to retire in May and not persist in taking action against him as he is not competent.
Justice Karnan caught the headlines in November 2011 when his complaint to the National Commission of Scheduled Castes (NCSC), alleging he was being harassed and victimised by brother judges because he was a Dalit, became public. He alleged attempts were made to reduce his role to one of subjugation.
Two years later in 2014, Justice Karnan entered a court hall where a Division Bench was hearing a PIL pertaining to names recommended for the post of judges and declared that the "selection is not fair" and that he would file an affidavit on the issue.
The Supreme Court in March 2014 condemned Justice Karnan's behaviour observing: "The sudden unfamiliar incident made us fume inwardly on this raw unconventional protest that was unexpected, uncharitable and ungenerous and, to say the least it was indecorous."
The then Madras High Court Chief Justice R K Aggarwal wrote to then Chief Justice of India P Sathasivam urging him to transfer Justice Karnan to some other court. Justice Karnan became the first judge to appear before the Supreme Court on April 1 on bailable warrants. He dared the Apex court to arrest him and put him behind bars.
(T R Ramachandran is senior journalist and commentator. The views are personal.)