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In a first, Supreme Court slaps notice to a sitting High Court judge

In a first in India, a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday issued a contempt notice to Calcutta High Court Judge CS Karnan, after taking suo motu cognisance of its contempt.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday also directed that all judicial and administrative work be taken away from Justice Karnan, who will have to appear before it in person.

“Issue notice to Justice C.S. Karnan. Returnable on February 13. Shree Justice C.S. Karnan shall forthwith refrain from handling any judicial or administrative work as may have been assigned to him,” a seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar said.

The others were justices Dipak Misra, J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, M.B. Lokur, P.C. Ghose and Kurian Joseph.

The bench listed contempt petition against him for further hearing on February 13.

A copy of the case against him would be provided to justice Karnan by SC registry during the course of the day.

Before the court issued the order it heard attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, who termed justice Karnan’s allegations as disparaging. The HC judge has been writing letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, law minister Ravi Shankar and the CJI accusing sitting and retired judges of corruption.

Rohatgi said the top court must deal with the sitting judge sternly so that a message is sent across to citizens that judiciary does not dither from acting against one of its own. He also said the public communications by justice Karnan were scurrilous and slanderous.

“It is the first time we will act against a sitting High Court judge and have to be very careful with what we settle as a precedent for times to come,” it said.

The apex court has turned the alleged contemptuous letters written by Justice Karnan against the Madras HC Chief Justice which were addressed to the CJI, Prime Minister and others, into contempt proceedings against him. He was transferred from the Madras HC to the Calcutta HC for his alleged contemptuous conduct.

Justice Karnan has also been allowed to argue in person his case relating to his own transfer later this month before another bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Amitava Roy, which last month had allowed Justice Karnan’s plea to argue his case in person by accepting his request to discharge his advocate S Gowthaman. He had written a letter dated December 21, 2016 to the Supreme Court Registry seeking permission for the same.

Earlier, the Registrar General of the Madras High Court had stated that 12 files of the high court were still with Justice Karnan and these were required to be returned.

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