Justice C. S. Karnan on being arrested on 20 June, 2017 moved the Supreme Court seeking bail and suspension of six months sentence awarded to him on 9 May, 2017. The vacation bench of the Supreme Court consisting of Justice D.Y Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul today (i.e. 21 June, 2017) said:

We can’t suspend the sentence as the order of the sentence was passed by a seven-judge bench.”

Besides the Court has rejected his bail plea. The following questions beg an answer:

What prevents the special bench of seven judges to hold court during vacation? Is it because some of the concerned judges being on vacation are holidaying around? Or is it because one of the seven judges has since retired and the bench cannot be constituted? Or is it because the detailed order of 9 May, 2017 has still not been prepared and signed by seven judges? In any case it is a serious development as the issue at hand is one of liberty of Justice C.S. Karnan. Is India already reeling under an undeclared emergency where liberty of the detenu comes to a naught?

In the infamous habeas corpus ruling of 1976 (ADM Jabalpur vs. Shukla) Justice Y.V. Chandrachud and three other judges ruled that “…no person has any locus standi to move any writ petition under Art 226 before a High Court for habeas corpus or any other writ or order or direction to challenge the legality of an order of detention…” The only dissenting opinion was from Justice H.R. Khanna. Have Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul in June 2017 done something akin to what Supreme Court did in habeas corpus case during the Emergency era? Are Indians living – sans their liberty – under undeclared emergency?


Since the Supreme Court is neither listening nor acting proactively it is necessary to revisit Justice Krishna Iyer’s classic treatise on bail wherein it was reiterated that bail not jail is the rule. Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer and Justice D.A. Desai through their judgement dated 31.01.1978 in Babu Singh and Others vs. The State of U.P(1978 AIR 527)gave a scientific orientation to the crucial issue of bail. These judges accepted that hitherto the ferocity of the crime had eclipsed the real purposes of bail or jail; that other sensitive and sensible circumstances were ignored, and that the fate of applicants for bail in the higher judiciary had largely hinged on the hunch of the bench as on expression of judicial discretion. Two paras need to be quoted:

The judge even when he is free, is still not wholly free. He is not to innovate at pleasure. He is not a knight – errant roaming at will in pursuit of his own ideal of beauty or of goodness. He is to draw his inspiration from consecrated principles.” – Benjamin Cardozo

“..the discretion of a judge is the law of tyrants: it is always unknown. It is different in different men; it is casual, and depends upon constitution, temper and passion. In the best, it is often times caprice; in the worst, it is every vice, folly and passion to which human nature is liable …”- Lord Camdon

The personal liberty of an accused or convict is fundamental as enunciated in Article 21 of the Constitution of India: No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law, it can be denied only by procedure “established by law”. The last four words of Article 21 are the life-force of that vital human right.

The Supreme Court of India – to salvage its credibility – should immediately constitute the special bench of seven judges and release Justice C. S. Karnan on bail.

Dr. P.S. Sahni is a member of PIL Watch Group which is campaigning on the issue of ‘bail not jail’ since 2014. Email: pilwatchgroup@gmail.com

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  1. Baldev Singh says:

    Sir, I know the working mind of Justice Jagdish Singh Kheher, I had appeared before him in High court at Chandigarh and he had fined me Rs.10000/ in my Civil case. I wrote a book ,’Justice Disgraced’. It is available for reading FREE on ‘scribd’. Must read for those who blieve in justice.

  2. Vijay Kumar Agarwal says:

    Outshylocking Shylock; Black robes, White lies.

    Alas, justice in India has become an ever-retreating, ever-elusive, ever-teasing and ever-disappointing illusion, delusion, mirage, airy nothingness and will-o’-the-wisp.

    Justice Vivian Bose in K.S. Srinivasan v Union of India, AIR 1958 SC 419:

    “Here is Government straining to temper justice with mercy
    and we, the Courts, are out-Shylocking Shylock in
    demanding a pound of flesh, and why? because this is “writ
    in the bond.” I will have none of it. All I can see is a man
    who has been wronged and I can see a plain way out. I
    would take it…..”

    Hon’ble Supreme Court in Niranjan Singh & Anr vs Prabhakar Rajaram Kharote & Ors,
    1980 AIR 785, 1980 SCR (3) 15:

    “We conclude this order on a note of anguish……
    We must remember that a democratic state is the custodian
    of people’s interests and not only police interests……On
    whose side is the State? The rule of law is not a one-way
    traffic and the authority of the State is not for the police and
    against the people…..After all a gesture of justice to courts
    of justice is the least that a government owes to the
    governed. We are confident that this inadvertence will be
    made good and the State of Maharashtra will disprove by
    deeds Henry Clay’s famous censure:

    “The arts of power and its minions are the same in all
    countries and in all ages. It marks its victim
    denounces it; and excites the public odium and the
    public hatred to conceal its own abuses and

    Forensic terrorism, recidivist administrative deviance and anarchy are the hallmarks of
    the conduct of the powers that be, as pointed out by Justice V.R. Krishna Iyer in The Times of India dated 14.6.2011:

    “Anarchy, alas, has come to stay……..
    That is because the executive today is vitiated with bribery.
    Even the judiciary, once regarded as untouchable and
    unapproachable by money power, is tarnished and sullied.
    People will soon cry for a national revolution. Not mere
    socialism but a republic governed by the little man and not
    as Churchill put it ‘rogues, rascals and freebooters’. Judges
    have lost the values of the Preamble and the significance of
    the oath of office…..”

    Corruption, dishonesty, chicanery, and sheer quackery and charlatanism, vide
    N.A. Palkhivala, We, The Nation, The Lost Decades)

    “The greatest illusion of our people is their infantile belief
    in the legal solubility of all problems. In the wise words of
    Lord Hailsham, the former Lord Chancellor of the UK, “We
    might do well to remember that in the whole realm of
    human relations there is no field more vulnerable to
    corruption, dishonesty, chicanery, and sheer quackery and
    charlatanism than contested litigation…””

    Convoluted condensate of corruption, vide Alan M. Dershowitz, Harvard Professor of Law: The Best Defense (1982)

    “One working title for this book was ‘Black Robes, White
    Lies.’ That would have been appropriate, because lying,
    distortion, and other forms of intellectual dishonesty are
    endemic among judges………Beneath the robes of many
    judges, I have seen corruption, incompetence, bias, laziness,
    meanness of spirit, and plain ordinary stupidity. I know of
    numerous instances where judges have made false claims
    about what they read, distorted the records, and engaged in
    other deceptions. Why judges are permitted to get away
    with–and indeed are often praised for–this kind of
    intellectual dishonesty is an important and largely
    unanswered question confronting the American legal

    William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

    “As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ gods,
    They kill us for their sport.” King Lear (Act 4, scene 1)

    “Well, heaven forgive him! and forgive us all!
    Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall:
    Some run from brakes of ice, and answer none:
    And some condemned for a fault alone.”
    Measure for Measure (Act 2, scene 1)

    “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
    But in ourselves, that we are underlings.”
    Julius Caesar (Act 1, scene 2)

    Charles Darwin (1809-1882):

    “We must, however, acknowledge, as it seems to me, that
    man with all his noble qualities… still bears in his bodily
    frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin.”

    Arthur Koestler (1905-1983)

    “When one contemplates the streak of insanity running
    through human history, it appears highly probable that
    homo sapiens is a biological freak, the result of some
    remarkable mistake in the evolutionary process. The
    ancient doctrine of original sin, variants of which occur
    independently in the mythologies of diverse cultures, could
    be a reflection of man’s awareness of his own inadequacy,
    of the intuitive hunch that somewhere along the line of his
    ascent something has gone wrong.”

    A victim of grotesque and outrageous miscarriage of justice for the last more than 30 years, despite two favourable Judgments of Hon’ble Supreme Court dated 30.8.1988 and 29.1.2014.

  3. K SHESHU BABU says:

    The reasons cited by the SC judges seem to be unconvincing. Justice Karnan should have been allowed to present his case freely and should have been given a fair trial before awarding sentence by the court . Justice Karnan has been denied justice!