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SC orders medical examination of Calcutta HC sitting judge to check his mental status

R Venkataraman | Updated on: 1 May 2017, 15:15 IST

In a first for any sitting judge of a high court, the Supreme Court Monday ordered for the medical examination of Calcutta High Court Justice CS Karnan to determine his mental status.

A seven-member Constitution Bench presided by Chief Justice of India (CJI) JS Kehar ordered that the medical report should be submitted before it by 8 May and posted the matter for final disposal on 9 May.

Earlier the apex court summoned Justice Karnan to appear before it on 1 May but the judge, facing suo-motu contempt proceedings initiated by the Supreme Court, on his part, summoned the CJI and other six judges of the Constitution Bench to appear before his “home court” in Calcutta.

He had also in his order barred the CJI and other judges from travelling abroad and also made a complaint under the SC/ST act, accusing them of harassing him for being a scheduled caste.

Justice Karnan's ‘judicial order’ passed from his “home court” at Calcutta particularly irked the Apex Bench, especially when the judge has been restrained from performing any judicial or administrative function.

The apex court directed the director-general of West Bengal Police to constitute a special team to get Justice Karnan's medical examination done. The judges have made it clear that the matter will end before the start of the summer vacations in court and before Karnan retires by the end of the month.

The apex court also directed all the courts across the country not to pay heed to any order Karnan passed after 8 February 2017 – the day he was stripped of all judicial and administrative duties.

Karnan’s order to the air control authority to not allow the CJI and other six judges to fly would now be infructuous.

“While issuing the notice to Justice CS Karnan on 08-02-2017 this court (SC) had directed that he would forthwith be restrained from passing any judicial or administrative order. He was directed to return all files to registrar general of the high court. Ever since the initiation of the proceedings Justice Karnan has been making press statements. After the last date of hearing on 31-03-2017, he passed some judicial orders which have been received by this court. In order to ensure no court, tribunal or authority we restrain all courts, tribunals and authorities from acting on his orders,” the seven-member Bench said in a brief order.

Further, the order said the orders and the press briefings Karnan made indicate that he may not be in a position to defend himself. Therefore he may be examined by a medical board of a government hospital, to deem his fitness in the matter.

This is a first in the history of independent judiciary of India. However, there is a clause in the law relating to the eligibility and appointment of judges according to which a mentally ill person cannot be appointed as a judge.

Now the order of the Supreme Court indicates that Karnan belongs to this category. If the medical report proves that, it would again be a first time a judge would be removed for being mentally unfit.

Earlier Karnan was defiant as he refused to appear before the Supreme Court. Later, he appeared on 31 March but refused to apologise and even dared the Supreme Court to arrest him.

This case has seen many firsts including the initiation of contempt proceedings against a sitting high court judge by the Supreme Court itself, that too suo-motu.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 1 May 2017, 15:15 IST