Justice Karnan's complex

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Justice Karnan's complex

Limits crossed, apex court must crack the whip

If Calcutta High Court judge CS Karnan had behaved irresponsibly all this while in the face of queries from the Supreme Court and his own conduct as Justice, he has now crossed all acceptable limits. He has not only refused to accept a bailable warrant but also slapped claims of compensation to the extent of Rs14 crore on the Supreme Court for "disturbing" his peace of mind and for having "insulted" him "in the general public consisting of a population of 125 crore in India". It is unlikely that his rejection is going to fetch him any relief, because court officials have reportedly said that the warrant is being considered as executed. Justice Karnan, like any other Indian citizen, is accountable to the rule of law, and his being a judge not only does not exclude him from such rule but also makes him more obligatory to honour it. Since it is clear that he is in no mood to oblige, the apex court must now deal with him in a harsher measure.

Until now, the apex court judges hearing the case have been accommodating, and rightly so, given the position that Justice Karnan holds. However, any further leniency will be seen as an attempt by the Supreme Court to go light on what is clearly reprehensible behaviour by a fellow judge. Justice Karnan has tried all tricks in the trade to deflect attention from his wrongdoing, including playing the caste card. Thankfully, he has so far not managed to draw any significant response in his favour from fellow caste leaders in and outside politics. Politicians must, in any case, keep away from this issue, given that it is strictly one that concerns the enforcement of law. Justice Karnan suffers from a complex and sees conspiracy where none exists. He has been ranting that he is being targeted specifically because he belongs to a Scheduled Caste. But he has not been able to offer any evidence of such bias. Besides, he seems to forget that caste never came in the way of his rise to the position of a judge of a High Court. If anything, it might have obliquely helped him, given that there is an unstated understanding that members of the less privileged communities, if they fit the bill, should be encouraged to take up high positions. This is as true in the country of the judiciary as it is with other professions.

Justice Karnan's accusation of bias aside, what explains his distasteful conduct of barging into the High Court's Chief Justice's court room and misbehaving with him?  What can one say of his defiance of orders from the apex court? What can justify his venom when he was divested of judicial and administrative responsibilities? Even assuming for a moment, for argument's sake, that he has been targeted for belonging to a Scheduled Caste, surely his response is way deviant from what it ought to have been. Incidentally, members of the Madras High Court collegium, which had first recommended Karnan's appointment as a judge of the High Court, were not from the Scheduled Castes.

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