A judge of the Madras High Court has broken all norms by threatening to slap a case against the chief justice apart from flashing the Dalit card to allege harassment.
By Ramesh Menon
It was unprecedented. Never before had a high court in India seen a parallel like this. The Madras High Court was plunged into an embarrassing crisis when Justice CS Karnan threatened to slap a case against Chief Justice Sanjay K Kaul of the Madras High Court, accusing him of interfering in his judicial work.
Karnan also threatened to approach the National Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe Commission to initiate a detailed inquiry against Justice Kaul for allegedly harassing him. He also said that if the chief justice interfered in his judicial process in this case, he would direct this Commission to set up an inquiry on Kaul for harassing a Dalit judge and get him booked under the SC/ST Atrocities Act.
The trigger for this outburst was Kaul setting up a recruitment committee for selection of civil judges, which comprised of Justices R Mala, D Hariparanthaman, R Sudhakar, N Kirubakaran and V Dhanapalan and the chairman of the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission and other officers. They were to start interviewing candidates from April 15.
Instituting suo motu proceedings, Karnan passed a judicial order questioning the inclusion of Justice Dhanapalan on the committee, alleging that he had produced bogus certificates of his bachelor and masters degrees in law. He said that this did not qualify him to conduct any of the interviews. That was not all. He said that two judges were from the same community and were related to each other and it would not seem that it was a fair selection process. He also stayed Kaul’s administrative order on the judicial appointments and also restrained the chairman of the Public Service commission from conducting the interviews. In his order, he said that two judges have to be from the minorities—one, a Muslim and the other, a Christian.
As his order was then stayed by a division bench of Justices S Tamilvanan and CT Sel-vam, Karnan directed the Registry to place the matter before him on the judicial side on April 30. He then reiterated his earlier order and threatened contempt of court proceedings against Kaul.
(Top-Below) Chief Justice Sanjay Kaul and Justice CS Karnan
The Supreme Court moved swiftly, ordering Karnan to keep away from the process of recruitment of civil judges and restraining him from dealing with the matter. In doing so, the court averted a serious judicial crisis.
Karnan has raised questions about a judge having a bogus degree. Over the last five years, as many as 41 complaints of forged degrees of judges have been received by the office of the Chief Justice of India. But no action has been taken
The Supreme Court has now stayed the interim order passed by Karnan and restrained him from going ahead with proceedings relating to the suo motu petition before the high court where controversial directions were passed by him. All other matters shall not be interfered with by any person, authority or judges relating to appointment of junior judicial officers in Tamil Nadu, the court said.
The Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice of India HL Dattu, Justice Arun Mishra and Justice Amitava Roy has stemmed indiscipline within the judiciary with this order that restrains judges from interfering in the process of recruitment initiated by the high court chief justice.
Karnan has been in the eye of controversy before. In January 2014, he had walked into court when a special bench was hearing a matter and raised a negative murmur about the “maintenance of propriety in judicial proceedings”. Then too, he had engaged in a spat with the then Chief Justice RK Agarwal, accusing him of “discrimination and partisan treatment”. Karnan was to inaugurate a court complex in Karur district of Tamil Nadu when he was transferred to Sivaganga district. He complained of discrimination as he said he could not inaugurate it and it was done by another judge. He thought this was done to humiliate him as he was a Dalit.
Karnan shot off a letter to the president, prime minister, union law and home ministers and Dalit politicians like BSP chief Mayawati and LJP’s Ram Vilas Paswan.
Karnan had reportedly barged into the chief justice’s chamber and hurled a volley of invectives at him. The chief justice then wrote to the then chief justice of India, P Sathasivam, saying that the conduct of Karnan “was not only unbecoming of a judge but also brings a bad name to the institution”.
However, one fact that Karnan raised about a judge having a bogus degree must be enquired into. Over the last five years, as many as 41 complaints of forged degrees of judges have been received by the office of the Chief Justice of India. But no action has been taken. At one stage, it was said that the complaints had been rejected as it was anonymously dispatched. To even establish that the complaints are fake, it is only prudent to have an independent inquiry to establish its veracity ensuring the credibility of the judiciary.
In other cases, the courts have taken action against bogus degree holders like Arun Kumar Mishra who was the chief engineer of the Uttar Pradesh State Industrial Development Corporation. The Allahabad High Court had ordered Mishra’s removal as he did not have a valid Class X marksheet or a BTech degree. But Mishra soon rode back to his official position due to an interim stay order from the Supreme Court against his removal from service by the Allahabad High Court. The case is still going on.