SC jails a Judge: Is debarring People from knowing the entire matter justified?

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The Supreme Court of India has ordered for imprisonment of Justice C.S.Karnan of Calcutta High Court on its own observation that the latter has committed contempt of the Apex Court. The Orissa High Court had, decades ago, sent a very uncompromising District Judge Baradakant Mishra to jail for contempt and at that time that was viewed as ‘historic’.

If collective wisdom of the highest judiciary of the Country determined that Justice Karnan is guilty of contempt against the Court and deserves imprisonment as an exemplary punishment, the matter is bound to live for ages to come as remarkable in the history of Indian Judiciary. So the issue involved shall never die despite end of the instant litigation with the punishment awarded and executed. In view of this, the people of this country have the right to know how Justice Karnan reacts to the Supreme Court order.

As to us, the Supreme Court is the best judge of itself in the matter, and its judgment is beyond our review, we feel injured when media is debarred from getting and putting on records the version of Justice Karnan. We are constrained to wonder if debarring media from carrying out its duty to the people of this country is justified.

On the other hand, a question hunts us. Justice Karnan has raised serious allegations against some of the judges of top judiciary. He has questioned the correctness of contempt proceedings against a sitting High Court Judge when, if he seems unethical in his conduct, impeachment is the only available constitutional way to deal with that, he has stated; and on records, has send the matter to the Parliament for invocation of the Judges Inquiry Act in this regard. He, as a Judge, should have honored the Apex Court instruction. But, has his order or observation that he put on records by “invoking his inherent powers as a High Court Judge” been quashed? Have the people no right to know the details of these and other tricky points involved in the case?

We have no objection to the order of the Supreme Court against Justice Karnan. But we certainly find it a conundrum when the supreme Judiciary debars the media from discharging its duty to the Republic by fetching for and sharing with the public what Justice Kernan says over the punishment given to him, specifically as he has been alleging that his being a Dalit is at the root of his turmoil in question.

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  1. My view is that people have the right to know, as people are the sovereign authority in our democratic setup. Let the truth be known to all in all transparent way, the wrong that are hidden at any stage, any level.

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