The latest developments related to Justice C S Karnan controversy is interesting and disquieting at the same time.
He has now announced a hunger strike. Observing a hunger strike in four cities including Delhi is for withdrawal of the contempt proceedings and the arrest warrant against him. It’s only a continuation of the controversies raised by Justice Karnan. He had openly written to the Prime Minister naming many prominent sitting and retired judges including the Supreme Court Chief Justice and accusing them of corruption. The Supreme Court asked Karnan to appear in person and answer the Contempt of Court charges. Since he failed to appear, the apex court issued an arrest warrant. When he was the Madras High Court judge, he had pointed fingers at other judges. Justice karnan had suo moto filed a case in 2015 citing that the Chief Justice was neglecting him. The SC had then ordered a stay on the case. It was after that, Justice Karnan raised corruption allegations against the Madras High Court judges last year. The apex court in February transferred him to the Kolkata High Court. However, Justice Karnan stayed the CJI’s order of his own transfer. A two-member bench of the Supreme Court then cancelled the stay order. He then ordered the Chennai police to register a case against the judges. When the SC tried to register a Contempt of Court case due to some of his statements, Justice Karnan apologized saying that he had issued ‘erroneous’ order due to his ‘mental frustration’ resulting in the loss of his ‘mental balance’. The latest developments took place after joining the Kolkata High Court.
These incidents couldn’t be ignored citing the loss of his mental balance. They reveal the drawbacks of the judiciary just like the personal downsides of Justice Karnan. In the current scenario, there is no solution on how to tackle the irresponsibility and indiscipline of the judges. From immature and at times perilous ‘disparaging’ remarks to verdicts that could be deemed visibly unfair, these can be held as examples for the laxity of some judges. The extreme step of impeachment is the quickest treatment at present. Its impracticality alone is enough to confirm that it would prove futile. On the other hand, even voicing about the injustice of the judiciary is considered to be under the limit of Contempt of Court. Not only that, there is no guarantee that those who aren’t mature mentally and emotionally wouldn’t reach the senior posts of the judiciary. Even if they make their way to the top, there is no scope for rectification. It could be said that the biggest foe of the judiciary is the judiciary itself. On one side, there are corruption tales that ruin the credibility and on the other side, there is the inefficiency that in no way is interested in justice. The issue isn’t limited only to one person.
Justice Karnan has been frequently using the Dalit card for justifying and defending himself. He is also hurling serious corruption allegations against others. Raising such charges untimely or otherwise provides opportunity for some to trivialise those issues. At the same time, the casteism and corruption in the judiciary couldn’t be deemed imaginary. Instances of caste discrimination have been alleged to be present in judicial appointments, promotions and even in some case verdicts. Eminent law maker F S Nariman had quoted a statement of P Shiv Shanker, a former Union Law Minister and a Dalit. During the swearing in ceremony of two judges, the person belonging to the upper class would be sworn in first to avoid the judge belonging to the backward class superseding the former in becoming the Chief Justice. The 1995 verdict of the Jaipur District Sessions Court in the gang-rape case of Bhanwari Devi, a Dalit activist, committed by ‘high-caste’ men, tarnished the image of the judiciary. According to the verdict, since the accused belonged to the upper caste, they weren’t likely to commit the rape. The other excuses provided for letting the accused free were also similarly lame. As far as corruption is concerned, even the Supreme Court wouldn’t claim the judiciary to be ‘clean’. Justice Karnan couldn’t be seen as a reason for finding solutions to the malaise afflicting the judiciary. However, the judiciary surely needs a clean-up.