Justice Karnan May Have Served India Well

By: R. Veera Raghavan

What would happen if, instead of Justice C S Karnan, some other High Court judge was acting so funnily and passing such ‘orders’ like Karnan? And if that other judge is not a Dalit? He could not have carried on with more than 5 per cent of what all Karnan did or said or ‘ordered’ atrociously. He would have been tackled within the judiciary early on, which would be right. He would have been sternly criticised in public by all around, which would be justified. If Karnan was given a long rope that is understandable too.

The Indian public which followed Karnan news was clear about one thing, while Karnan did not grasp another. All including Dalits knew over time that Karnan did not inspire anyone, not even an ant, with his appalling statements or ‘orders’.  Second, Karnan wrongly believed Dalits would rally around him and agitate uncontrollably if law and judges stood up to him and so he could go on saying or ‘ordering’ anything against other judges, even those of the Supreme Court. By projecting himself as a Dalit amidst his horrible conduct he was hurting poor Dalits, not espousing their cause.

In a letter to the prime minister, Karnan had named twenty judges, a few in the Supreme Court and many in High Courts, as being corrupt in office, but offered no proof against any of them.  This chiefly led to a contempt-of-court action against Karnan in the Supreme Court, before a bench of seven senior most judges of that court. He appeared once before the Supreme Court in that proceeding and spoke irrelevantly.  Then he was granted time to submit his reply to defend himself, but he neither filed a reply nor turned up at following hearings.  Meanwhile he began issuing laughable ‘orders’ against the seven judges who were trying him.  In the end the Supreme Court adjudged him guilty on 9th May.

Before ruling that Karnan was guilty of contempt, the Supreme Court did well to direct his medical examination to know if he was of sound mind and had the capacity to understand what all he was doing, from a legal point of view. Karnan declined to take a medical examination, claiming he was all well in his mind. Still, however, he continued with his outrageous ‘orders’ against those seven Supreme Court judges, asking for their medical examination too, unseating them from the Supreme Court, calling them to appear in his ‘residential court’ at Kolkata and announcing a five-year jail term for those judges. But none of Karnan’s ‘orders’ like these had any force since much earlier, at the beginning of the contempt action against him, the Supreme Court had stripped him of all his judicial and administrative powers.

If some thought Karnan was perhaps deficient in mind in legal terms – to be issuing such kinds of orders nonstop – they must look at this.  When the Supreme Court finally held Karnan in contempt and punished him with a six-month imprisonment, he did not issue one more tit-for-tat ‘order’ holding the seven Supreme Court judges in contempt of his ‘court’.  He did not also call them before his ‘court’ anymore. Instead, he approached the Supreme Court – that is, the same seven judges whom he earlier ordered as removed – to recall the judgement and punishment they handed. This shows Karnan was never legally out of his mind. All along he had carried on with his monstrous‘orders’ and defiance because he believed even the Supreme Court judges would not dare to punish him when he was taking cover under his Dalit status. But when the highest court confronted him with restraint and dignity, and punished him in the end, he realised that his hollow audacity had not shielded him. Then he quickly went into hiding to evade arrest – he is yet to be traced – and applied to the Supreme Court through his lawyer for recalling its judgement on some pleas.

Don’t you see, the moment the Supreme Court held him guilty and ordered jail for him he began acting like anyone faced with a court order, who wished to follow court procedures for lifting that order. So let no one imagine that a person out of his mind was insensitively punished by the Supreme Court.  And we should also know: By law, a medically recognized insane person is excused and let off when tried for an offence done out of such insanity.  But when mere immaturity, foolishness or arrogance are behind an offence, the offender is not excused and he must take punishment.

The Supreme Court was really lenient on Karnan. The ‘orders‘ he issued against the seven judges of the Supreme Court even as they were trying him were also acts of contempt of court.  But here the Supreme Court rightly ignored Karnan and did not launch actions against him on those fresh acts of contempt.

Some may still have a question if the Supreme Court was right in giving a long rope to Karnan, and in being so lenient on him. Yes, the court was right. It is true that poor Dalits suffer injustice in many ways in several parts of India. When the country is addressing this complex issue, Karnan was falsely crying out that he was being victimised because he was a Dalit. The judiciary had to give a clear and undoubted impression to all concerned – many of whom would not know the full facts surrounding Karnan – that Karnan was not singled out or victimised in any way and that he was himself all at fault. As several judges of the Madras High Court and of the Supreme Court patiently bore his lengthy onslaught, Karnan scaled new heights of stupidity through his successive ‘orders’, to the point no one would want to defend him.  Many in public life did not wish to speak against him so they are not misunderstood. All hoped that the judiciary should check him, and the Supreme Court did it. The court cannot do a Karnan to Karnan, and had to act slowly and soberly as we witnessed. This is a moment of quiet pride for our judiciary in doing a self-cleansing act with courage and dignity. Give a big salute to the Supreme Court and to those seven judges.

Karnan will surely be remembered for one thing. No other high ranking individual had dared to humiliate and defy the judiciary so publicly and so nonchalantly.  When the Supreme Court brings such an offender to justice and sends him to jail, it is a message to all little brothers in public life or government service who freely break laws for personal gains, that they should watch themselves. Here, though not intending, Karnan has helped showcasing the prowess and majesty of our laws and law courts, whatever the status and background of the man before the court. That way, he may have served the nation well.

{ Note: This article originally published HERE.

A comment to this article was posted by Shreepal Singh there. The edited comment is given here:

There are three elements to the Karnan saga: One – his acts as a person; Two – his acts as a Dalit; and Three – his acts as a judge. As a person Karnan gave an impression to the general public that he was daring person to challenge the established system for a good national cause (fighting corruption at high places); that notwithstanding his courage, he was the man with a disturbed personality who was unable to understand what he had undertaken to accomplish, where he had landed himself in his venture and at that point what he should do to absolve himself of any blemish. As a Dalit, he has caused more of a loss to that community by his acts than garnering of any public sympathy by creating a false general impression that Dalits – and their symbol as he was sitting at a high place like a judge of a High Court – are unreasonable people as a group. As a judge, Karnan has given a very poor impression of his knowledge of law where-under he accuses someone – his brother judges – without offering any semblance of proof whatsoever, passes allegedly judicial orders while he is divested of his judicial powers by the Supreme Court, tries his own cause by making the concerned Supreme Court judges accused before himself for committing offense against him and sentencing those accused with imprisonment. It is the height of ignorance of law. He is almost certain to go to jail as the President of India (seeing that no action is taken for so many days on his clemency petition) is not likely to pardon him. Still, by his bizarre acts he has shaken to the core the the dignity or the majesty or the credibility (in the way one likes to look at it) of the Indian judicial institutions. If you look at this episode from any angle, you will find that he has given a sever jolt to the present system of making appointment to the higher judiciary in India.  He will be remembered for a long time in the judicial history of India.}

Advertisements

Leave your reply:

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: