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, writing down the detailed judgement in the Justice C.S. Karnan matter, said that Justice Karnan shielded himself from actions, by trumpeting his position, as belonging to an under-privileged caste and levelled obnoxious allegations against innumerable Judges of the Supreme Court, Chief Justices of the High Courts, but mostly against Judges of the Madras High Court, however, he did not support his allegations with any material. The Court had, on 09.05.2017, found Justice Karnan guilty of contempt of court and imposed 6 months’ imprisonment upon him.
Stating that Justice Karnan’s allegations were malicious and defamatory, the Court said that Justice Karnan carried his insinuations to the public at large by endorsing his letters carefully so as to widely circulate the contents of his communications, to the desired circles. Some of his letters were intentionally endorsed, amongst others, to the President of the Tamil Nadu Advocate Association. He also used internet to place his point of view, and the entire material, in the public domain. Further, during the course of hearing of the instant contempt petition, his ridicule of the Supreme Court remained unabated. He stayed orders passed by this Court, restrained the Judges on this Bench from leaving the country and convicted them, along with another Judge of this Court, and sentenced them to 5 years imprisonment, besides imposing individual costs on the convicted Judges. Considering the aforesaid facts, the Court held that the actions of Justice Karnan constituted the grossest and gravest actions of contempt of Court and hence, he is liable to be punished, for his unsavoury actions and behavior.
However, J. Chelameswar and Ranjan Gogoi, JJ, writing down a separate judgment, explained the scope power of the Court in the matter and said that scandalising the Court is considered to be contempt of court and the actions of Justice Karnan amount to scandalising. They also acknowledged the fact that the case had highlighted 2 important aspects for consideration i.e.
(1) the need to revisit the process of selection and appointment of judges to the constitutional courts, for that matter any member of the judiciary at all levels. The Judges said that what appropriate mechanism would be suitable for assessing the personality of the candidate who is being considered for appointment to be a member of a constitutional court is a matter which is to be identified after an appropriate debate by all the concerned – the Bar, the Bench, the State and Civil Society.
(2) the need to set up appropriate legal regime to deal with situations where the conduct of a Judge of a constitutional court requires corrective measures – other than impeachment – to be taken. It was said that there can be deviations in the conduct of the holders of the offices of constitutional courts which do not strictly call for impeachment of the individual or such impeachment is not feasible, however, the Constitution is silent in this regard.
Stating that the whole incident has caused an embarrassment to Indian Judiciary, the judges called for nationwide debate on the aforementioned issues. [In Re: Justice C.S. Karnan, 2017 SCC OnLine SC 703, decided on 04.07.2017]