New Delhi: Chief Justice of India T.S. Thakur has asked Madras high court chief justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul to seek an explanation from Justice C.S. Karnan on his alleged misconduct in writing letters to previous and present high court chief justices levelling various charges against them, including over integrity.
Justice Karnan has already been transferred as a judge of the Calcutta high court, and given time till March 11 to join. Highly-placed sources said despite Justice Karnan’s letter of regret and repentance, the CJI is learnt to have taken a serious view of the “over-reach and misdemeanour” of Justice Karnan.
In his communication, the CJI drew Justice Kaul’s attention to earlier complaints received from him as well as from former chief justice R.K. Agarwal on Justice Karnan’s behaviour towards brother judges and the chief justice himself over various issues.
The CJI wanted Justice Kaul to seek a written explanation from Justice Karnan on these complaints and forward this to the Supreme Court. The CJI said that based on the explanation a three-judge committee would be formed to conduct an in-house inquiry into his alleged misconduct.
In April 2015 Justice Kaul wrote a letter to then CJI H.L. Dattu endorsing the recommendation made earlier by Justice R.K. Agarwal, former Madras CJ, for Justice Karnan’s transfer out of the Madras high court. Justice Kaul had then said: “If no action is taken at least now, it can never happen.”
Justice Kaul, citing a series of incidents from 2011, said: “There are serious complaints of impropriety and lack of integrity against Justice Karnan. Though the (then) CJI is aware of the past history, I am obliged to make a reference to past events, only with a view to highlight that he is stepping up pressure upon the chief justice, the other learned judges, the staff and the bar, slowly and gradually with an impression that it will go unchecked.”
He said: “I am conscious of the fact that right from 2011, several reports have been sent to the Supreme Court, by every one of my predecessors without exception about Justice Karnan’s quirks. Therefore I was really in two minds as to whether I should disturb you with one more report, especially having apprised you personally of some events recently. But what has happened in the past couple of days has compelled me in the greater interest of the institution to submit this report to you so that any further damage to the reputation of the court could be averted, if possible.”
Summarising Justice Karnan’s conduct, the Madras CJ said: “Inability to get along with any of his colleagues; his perception that he is ragged by colleagues; his targeting several judges, especially Justice V. Dhanapalan (since retired) and Justice S. Manikumar; the threats held out by him to other judges; abusive language to his own colleagues, including women judges; inability to render judgments in open court and also within any timeframe; his obsession with particular rosters, considered by him to be high potential cases, and the harassment of officers in the registry both in his chambers and in open court, where he makes vituperative remarks against the Chief Justice and other judges, embarrassing them in the presence of lawyers.”
Justice Karnan, on his part, sent a letter to Justice Dattu to urge him to order a probe against Justice Kaul. He said: “My Lord, the Chief Justice has showed favouritism to upper class judges and also caused ill-will among the fraternity towards me. Hence, it is too apparent that the Chief Justice has shown discrimination and in going against his oath of office to maintain and perform the duties of his office without fear or favour, affection or ill-will, that he will uphold the Constitution and its laws as clearly mentioned in Article 219 of the Constitution of India. Hence, I deeply request Your Lordship to conduct a comprehensive inquiry against my letter and render justice as is fit and fair to appease my trouble mind with so much subjugation.”...