FRONTLINE
Justice Without Fairness Image Credit: FRONTLINE
Justice Without Fairness Image Credit: FRONTLINE

Justice Without Fairness

The Supreme Court’s order convicting and sentencing Justice C.S. Karnan raises serious questions about the court’s commitment not only to natural justice but also to freedom of expression.

V. Venkatesan

TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION. WHAT actually happens is sometimes more bizarre than anything that could be imagined. Until May 9, no one could have imagined that a High Court judge in India could be held guilty of contempt of the Supreme Court and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. Until May 18, when this issue went to press, no one could have imagined that a High Court judge, after being held guilty and sentenced to imprisonment by the apex court, could be on the run, evading the process of law or that the Supreme Court’s direction to the police to execute its order to imprison a sitting High Court judge would remain unimplemented beyond a week because the judge was untraceable.

As the Justice C.S. Karnan saga becomes more and more bizarre, the initial derision that greeted Justice Karnan, a sitting judge of the Calcutta High Court, when he took on the Supreme Court after it initiated contempt of court proceedings against him soon turned into specticism about the very powers of the Supreme court to punish him for contempt in the manner it chose to.

The Supreme Court took suo motu cognisance of a letter written by Justice Karnan on January 23 to the Prime Minister seeking an investigation into allegations of corruption by certain judges of the Madras High Court. On February 8, a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising the first seven senior-most judges issued notice to Justice Karnan and directed him to refrain from handling


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