In an unprecedented move, the Supreme Court, India's top court, has issued a bailable warrant against serving serving Calcutta High Court judge CS Karnan to ensure his presence before it on March 31 in a contempt case.
"There is no other alternative to seek presence of Shri Justice C S Karnan. We issue bailable warrants of the sum of Rs 10,000 in the nature of personal bond to the satisfaction of the arresting officer," a seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice J S Khehar said.
The bench directed the West Bengal Director General of Police to personally execute the arrest warrant on Justice Karnan to ensure his presence before it on March 31, the next date of hearing.
The bench, also comprising Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M B Lokur, P C Ghose and Kurian Joseph, refused to consider a communication, written to apex court registry on March 8, as his response to the notice issued against him earlier.
At the outset, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said that Justice Karnan had defied the Supreme Court order and the apex court rules on contempt provide for issuance of bailable warrants against a contemnor to ensure his presence.
The apex court said that the Supreme Court registry had received a fax from Justice Karnan on March 8 in which he had discussed certain administrative issues.
The bench, however, refused to consider the March 8 communication as a response of Justice Karnan on the contempt notice observing that it reflected allegations "on certain named judges".
After the alleged open contemptuous letters written by Justice Karnan against the Madras High Court Chief Justice, addressed to the CJI, Prime Minister and others, the court had initiated proceedings against him.
The apex court had on February 8 asked Justice Karnan to appear in person and explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him. It had restrained him from undertaking judicial and administrative work.
However, Justice Karnan failed to appear before the apex court on February 13.
On February 10, Justice Karnan had written a letter to the apex court in which he had reportedly played the Dalit card asking the Supreme Court to refer the matter to Parliament, contending that contempt proceedings were "not sustainable".
"Before obtaining any explanation from me, I wish to state that the courts have no power to enforce punishment against a sitting judge of the High Court. The said order does not conform to logic, therefore it is not suitable for execution," he had said in the letter.
During the last hearing, senior advocate K K Venugopal, appearing for the Registrar General of the Madras HC, had said the High Court judges needed protection from Karnan's verbal abuse and wild charges.
He had said the judge concerned had levelled malicious rape charges against a sitting Madras High Court judge.
Justice Karnan was transferred from the Madras HC to the Calcutta HC for his alleged contemptuous conduct. He had on February 15, 2016 stayed his transfer order after the apex court asked the Chief Justice of Madras High Court not to assign any judicial work to him.
The same day the apex court had suspended Justice Karnan's order and made it clear that all administrative and judicial orders passed by him after the issuance of the proposal of his transfer from the Madras High Court to the Calcutta High Court shall remain stayed till further orders.
However, a week later, the judge had said that he had issued an "erroneous" order due to his "mental frustration resulting in loss of his mental balance".