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SC issues warrant against Calcutta HC judge Karnan for failing to appear in contempt case

The Supreme Court issued on Friday a bailable warrant against sitting Calcutta high court justice CS Karnan, an unprecedented order in a bitter confrontation between the judge and the top court.

A seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar issued the order directing Karnan’s presence on March 31 because the judge ignored an earlier court order summoning him. Justice Karnan had to appear on Friday to respond to contempt proceedings initiated against him.

The court said the bailable warrant should be executed through Director General of Police, West Bengal.

Justice Karnan had, however, sent a letter to the CJI asking him to restore his judicial and administrative powers, which the bench rejected.

The SC had on February 8 issued contempt notice to the controversial judge who had accused several judges of the Madras high court — where he had earlier served — and a SC judge of corruption, nepotism and casteism.

The SC asked Karnan – who is Dalit – to be personally present before the top court on February 13.

But, justice Karnan did not obey the court order and failed to appear. Instead, he wrote a letter questioning the contempt proceedings against him. According to the judge, only Parliament had the power to initiate action against a sitting high court judge by way of an impeachment motion.

Yet, the constitution bench gave him another chance, albeit with a warning.

“We will give him one more opportunity. We want to hear him before framing charges,” the bench had said on February 13 after attorney general Mukul Rohatgi suggested the court to go ahead with the proceedings in his absence.

In his earlier letter, justice Karnan has said the contempt action against him “is erroneous and has been willfully and wantonly passed with malafide intention”. Therefore these proceedings may be referred to Parliament, where, he said, he would establish the high rate of corruption prevailing in the judiciary in the Madras HC.

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