The Supreme Court’s order of today (09 May, 2017) sentenced Calcutta High Court judge, Justice C.S. Karnan to six months imprisonment for contempt of court; additionally media has also been barred from publishing pronouncements of Justice Karnan. This order undermines the Constitution of India as it violates Article 19(fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression) and erodes the independence of the High Courts contrary to what is envisaged in the Constitution. The High Courts in India function independently of the Supreme Court.
The Indian Constitution does not accord so much power to the Supreme Court to get a sitting High Court judge – itself a Constitutional entity – to be arrested and thrown in jail. That the Supreme Court passed an order just on the eve of its summer break raises the issue of the intent of the higher judiciary. The bench which passed the order appears to be peeved by the pronouncements of Justice Karnan which are being seen as contemptuous of the judiciary. However more important is that the Indian Constitution does not become a victim in the process.
All this while all the complaints made by Justice Karnan (including reportedly interalia to the Chief Justice of India) have not received the attention of the powers that be. Is it because these deal with the corruption of judges in the higher judiciary? There appears to be Brahmanism working against Justice Karnan, a Dalit judge. Legal luminaries have already raised the objection of the Supreme Court forcing a High Court judge, Justice Karnan to undertake a mental health check up. If the apex Court indeed has an iota of doubt about his mental health status then the present order of the Supreme Court to get him arrested and thrown in jail is an insane order. It may be remembered that laws pertaining to mental health in Europe were to begin with framed primarily to ensure that dissenters do not go about scot-free.
Even at this late stage the Supreme Court should reverse its order; it should not wait for an enlightened citizen to file a review petition by rushing to the Chief Justice’s residence tonight.
Does this order of 9th May, 2017 remind one of 25th June, 1975!
Dr. P.S. Sahni & Shobha Aggarwal
Members, PIL Watch Group
(Email: [email protected])
9th May, 2017