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Guided By Passion Image Credit: FRONTLINE
Guided By Passion Image Credit: FRONTLINE

Guided By Passion

The Justice Karnan case has highlighted again the urgent need to amend the law and procedure on the exercise of suo motu contempt proceedings by the Supreme Court and High Courts

M.P. Raju

QUIS CUSTODIET CUSTODES? (WHO WILL judge the judges?) The judges of the Supreme Court constitute the highest court and the last court of appeal. They are neither elected nor, once appointed, can they be disciplined by any institution except Parliament by way of impeachment. The recent order of the seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court convicting and sentencing Justice C.S. Karnan of the Calcutta High Court to six months’ imprisonment for contempt of court has brought this question to the fore again. This is in addition to the questions relating to the contempt of court power usurping the impeachment function of Parliament, the propriety of the order gagging the media and the malaise of an unrepresentative judiciary.

The saga relating to Justice Karnan is not a short one. His alleged acts of irregularity, illegaly and even delinquency have been in the media for long. They have even been subjected to judicial review and remedied by higher benches of the same High Courts and even the Supreme Court. One such case, wherein he as a High Court judge happened to be impleaded, strangely as a party respondent, got tagged with the present contempt proceedings. He was evidently in the dock and the media cannot be accused of being merciful to him. But the post-punishment scenario is different. There is growing criticism against the Supreme Court regarding the manner in which it has dealt with Justice Karnan, including the allegations by a


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