IT hasn’t been easy for even his fellow lawyers and close observers to fully understand the maverick, who, to many, is as much a distasteful character as he is fascinating. All they know is that the episodes relating to Justice C.S. Karnan’s contempt case are yet to unfold fully—it’s an epic that is far from over. Is he a tragic hero or a villain? An idiosyncratic professional or plain insane? It’s tough to explain what exactly he was trying to achieve and why.
Justice Karnan’s cruise through many ‘firsts’ culminated into a historic order the other day. On May 9, the Supreme Court sentenced him to six months’ imprisonment on contempt charges. The order by the seven-judge bench, led by the CJI Justice J.S. Khehar, did not clarify whether the imprisonment was simple or confinement to a ‘civil prison’.
That anyway wasn’t the sole legal option. Another would have been to impeach Justice Karnan for misconduct, but the 59-year-old would have retired (in June) even before the lengthy proceedings really began. Apart from contempt proceedings, there are few ways for the apex court to discipline a judge, especially when he goes rogue.
On May 11, Justice Khehar said he would hear advocate Mathews Nedumpara, who appeared on behalf of Karnan in the Supreme Court, pleading for relief. In the past, the CJI refused to entertain the body Nedumpara represents: the National La