Ever since the Supreme Court of India passed the order on 9th May, 2017 of arrest of Justice C.S. Karnan, a judge of the Calcutta High Court, he has been rendered untraceable. Since the Supreme Court order had put press censorship of sorts,rumours are afloat about Justice Karnan’s whereabouts. A disinformation campaign has been launched in the mainstream media to the effect that Justice Karnan is in Tamilnadu one moment and Andhra Pradesh the next; that he has fled the country and gone to Nepal or even Bangladesh. He is being painted as a fugitive on the run. Naturally there are fears in the minds of all democratically minded human rights activists about the wellbeing of Justice C.S. Karnan who has every right to defend himself legally even at this stage.
Pertinently since he had been championing the cause of action against corruption in the higher judiciary and had been openly petitioning to various authorities on the issue he would naturally become a marked man. The vested interest would naturally like to exploit the circumstances in which Justice Karnan finds himself. All efforts should be made to ensure his safety. After all Justice Karnan ostensibly has the evidence of corruption against the higher judiciary. Additionally the extreme public humiliation faced by Justice Karnan may create a situation whereby he may be forced to end his life.
The extreme public humiliation arose partly because a team of doctors accompanied by policemen – as ordered by the Supreme Court of India – landed at Justice Karnan’s residence in Kolkata in the full glare of the bourgeois press including the photo-journalists/TV channels. The very next day the mainstream press dutifully published the photograph of Justice Karnan surrounded by the aforementioned team. This is not the way mental health examination of any human being ought to be conducted. The seven judges of the Supreme Court effectively blew to smithereens the concept of privacy – ironically evolved by the very same Supreme Court of India. It must be remembered that Justice Karnan is still a constitutional entity and still a judge of the Calcutta High Court; his status is similar to that of the seven judges whose order brought him to such a pass. If an MBBS student were to tell his or her examiner on how a medical examination of someone with an alleged mental health problem is to be undertaken and if the student were to concur with the actual implementation of the Supreme Court’s order as detailed above the examiner would fail the medical student and ask him/her to appear in a supplementary exam.
All this must have caused lots of pain, suffering and mental trauma to Justice Karnan. This by itself could drive him to end his life now or later. There is a limit to the humiliation which a human being can endure. In the event that Justice Karnan takes his own life, the Supreme Court will have a hard time shrugging off the public perception that its order aided and abetted theact.
In criminal law the needle of suspicion in any murder points to those likely to benefit most from a murder. If Justice Karnan dies even accidentally it should be investigated as a homicide. It is imperative that Justice Karnan’s house and office are secured by an independent body to ensure that nothing is stolen or tampered with. After all there may be electronic or hard copies of evidence against the alleged corrupt judges lying around.
In the event that Justice Karnan is located hail and hearty he should be treated with utmost respect and privacy rather than being paraded around on the streets. A constitutional authority who still remains a High Court judge has a right to life and dignity even if he is perceived by the establishment to have crossed the laxman rekha.
We appeal to the President of India to ensure Justice Karnan’s wellbeing and safety; also that justice is done to him.
Dr. P.S. Sahni & Shobha Aggarwal
Members, PIL Watch Group
[PIL Watch Group is mandated to closely watch the accountability and ethical standards of judiciary and conduct of judges.