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Supreme Court Registrar refused to list Justice C.S. Karnan’s plea for recall of the order awarding him 6 months imprisonment for contempt of court. The Registrar noticed that the proceedings before the 7-judge bench were decided on merits and after due consideration, it was held that Justice C S Karnan had committed contempt of the gravest nature resulting in finding of guilt and was sentenced to an imprisonment of six months. The said findings have since attained finality, hence, the present writ petition is not maintainable. The relief if any lies some where else.

In plea filed by his lawyer Mathews J Nedumpara, Justice Karnan said that under the constitutional scheme, High Courts are not subordinate to the Supreme Court; High Courts are as much independent as the Supreme Court is, though their orders could be judicially challenged in the Supreme Court, the latter being a Court of Appeal and hence, he could not be held guilty of contempt of court. He said that the Contempt of Courts Act was a cathartic jurisprudence which belonged to the Dark Ages, the era of inquisition and torture, distinct from the classical Roman Law which constitutes the foundation of the modern jurisprudence.

After Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the plea, his lawyers had claimed that a representation has been made to the President seeking suspension of the Supreme Court order sentencing him to six months imprisonment for contempt of court under Article 72 of the Constitution. However, the President’s office said that it was not aware of any such representation.

Source: PTI

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 7-Judge Bench of Jagdish Singh Khehar, CJ and Dipak Misra, J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur, PC Ghose and Kurian Joseph, JJ, found Justice C.S. Karnan, the sitting Judge of Calcutta High Court, guilty of contempt of court and imposed 6 months’ imprisonment upon him and as a consequence, he was barred from performing any administrative or judicial functions. The Court said that Justice Karnan’s actions constitute contempt of this Court, and of the judiciary of the gravest nature.

The Court had on 01.05.2017, directed that Justice Karnan may not be in a fit medical condition, to defend himself, in the present proceedings and hence he should be medically examined, before proceeding further. Following which Justice Karnan had not only refused to let the medical team examine him but also awarded 5 years imprisonment to the 7 members of the Bench along with R. Banumathi, J under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 for harassing a Dalit Judge by initiating a suo mot contempt proceeding against him and directing a medical examination. He had earlier barred the 8 Judges from travelling abroad and had suggested that they resign in the interest of the nation.

Noticing that the incident of contempt includes public statements and publication of orders made by the contemnor, which were highlighted by the electronic and print media, the Court directed that  no further statements made by him should be published hereafter.

Justice Karnan, who is a sitting judge of Calcutta High Court, had written letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, asking him to take actions against the corrupt sitting and retired Judges of the Supreme Court and Madras High Court when he was a Judge of the Madras High Court and had passed an injunction against his own transfer orders. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had asked the Supreme Court to take suo motu action against the Judge to set an example. The Court hence, initiated the proceedings against him on 08.02.2017. [In Re: Justice C. S. Karnan, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 562, order dated 09.05.2017]

Case BriefsSupreme Court

Supreme Court: The 7-judge bench of J.S. Khehar, CJ and Dipak Misra, J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur, P.C. Ghose and Kurian Joseph, JJ declined the requests of Justice C.S.Karnan to be permitted to discharge judicial and administrative duties after he finally appeared before the bench in the suo motu contempt proceedings initiated against him.

The Court asked him whether he affirms the contents of the letters, written by him and whether he would like to withdraw the allegations. Since he did not respond, in any affirmative manner, one way or the other, the Court decided to proceed with the matter only after receipt of his written response. Hence, the Court asked him to respond to the factual position indicated in the various letters, addressed by him to this Court, within four weeks.

The Court had earlier, on 10.03.2017, issued a bailable warrant of Rs.10,000, in the nature of a personal bond, to ensure the presence of Justice Karnan after he repeatedly failed to appear before the Court.

The bench directed Justice Karnan to appear on 01.05.2017. [In Re: Justice C.S. Karnan, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 342, order dated 31.03.2017]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: While dismissing a petition presented to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the accused for wilful disobedience of Karnataka High Court’s order in Muslim Jamath Committee v. Karnataka State Board Of Wakfs, Writ Petition No. 8589 of 2016, the Division Bench of H.G. Ramesh, K.N. Phaneendra, JJ. held that a petition to initiate action for civil contempt can be presented only by an aggrieved party.

In the aforesaid writ petition, the Court had allowed the petitioner to hold Uroos celebrations, provided that the expenses were borne by the petitioner itself. The petitioner was barred from taking any contributions from the devotees. The Court had also directed the third respondent, Administrator of Masjid, to ensure that no body collects any contributions from the devotees unlawfully. Later, the complainant, in his personal capacity, filed a contempt petition alleging that the accused had forcefully collected amount from devotees in wilful disobedience of Court’s order. The complainant was working as the Administrator of Masjid on the date of Court’s order, but on the date of presentation of the Contempt Petition, he was working as Assistant Director of Land Records.

The court noted that except where the Court has given liberty to third parties to initiate action for contempt of court, a petition to initiate action for civil contempt can be presented only by an aggrieved party. Since the complainant was not a party to the order in his personal capacity, and he had presented the contempt petition in his personal capacity, he cannot be said to be a ‘party aggrieved’. Moreover, in the order, no liberty was given to any third party to initiate action for contempt of court. The petition, therefore, was accordingly dismissed. [Shamshuddin v. Sri Haris M.Y., 2016 SCC OnLine Kar 6468, November 9, 2016]

Case BriefsHigh Courts

Karnataka High Court: While relying upon the decision of the Full Bench of Supreme Court in Union of India v. Oswal Woollen Mills Ltd., (1984) 2 SCC 646, the Division Bench of H.G. Ramesh, K.N. Phaneendra, JJ. held that if no time limit is fixed for compliance of an order, an action for contempt of court is not maintainable. The complainant had filed a petition to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the accused for disobeying Karnataka High Court’s order in N Rajanna v. State of Karnataka, Writ Petition No. 22179 of 2014, wherein, the respondent was directed to consider the request of the petitioner for regularization of his services. However, no time was fixed for compliance of the order.

The Court referred to the Supreme Court’s observations in Oswal Woollen Mills Ltd. wherein it was held that where time is not fixed for taking action, failure to take action in the matter is not contempt, and thereby held that the petition is not maintainable in law and accordingly dismissed it. [N. Rajanna v. Rajaneesh Goel, 2016 SCC OnLine Kar 6469, decided on October 25, 2016]