Contempt of court proceedings against HC judge, in a first

Q.  Which sitting HC judge for the first time, has been issued contempt of court?
- Published on 08 Feb 17

a. CS Karnan
b. Dipak Misra
c. J Chelameswar
d. Ranjan Gogoi

Contempt of court proceedings against HC judge, in a firstIn a step without previous precedents, Chief Justice of India JS Khehar decided on Feb 7, 2017 to initiate contempt of court proceedings.

This is against sitting Calcutta high court judge C S Karnan for continuously levelling allegations against the Madras HC chief justice and other judges.

The case will be heard by a bench headed by the CJI and comprising six other senior judges -Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur, P C Ghose and Kurian Joseph.

This is the first time that a constitutional court has initiated contempt of court proceedings against a judge of the SC or HC.

There have been times when the CJI, after receiving inquiry reports against a sitting judge, has recommended to Parliament to initiate proceedings for the removal of the erring judge.

Karnan had plunged Madras HC into a major crisis in 2015 by threatening contempt of court proceedings against Chief Justice Sanjay K Kaul.

Kaul had been recommended by the collegium to be appointed as a judge of the SC.

Karnan had accused Kaul of interfering in his judicial work and sought a CBI probe into the alleged forged educational qualification of another HC judge.

The controversial judge has also alleged that he was a victim of caste bias as he was a Dalit and had accused the Madras HC chief justice of harassing him.

Subsequently , when he was transferred, Karnan "stayed" the order of the SC, advising the CJI not to interfere in his "jurisdiction", before relenting and accepting his transfer.

Constitutionally, the only process for sacking a judge of the SC or HC is through a removal motion passed by a two-thirds majority in each House of Parliament.

Till date, no judge has been removed by Parliament though such motions were initiated thrice.

Apart from the contempt of court action against Kaul, Karnan had also threatened to ask the National Commission for Scheduled Castes to initiate a detailed inquiry against the HC chief justice.

Previous Precedents: HC Judge Removal
  • A removal motion against Justice V Ramaswami was defeated in Parliament in May 1993.
  • This was with the help of abstaining Congress MPs.
  • Sikkim HC Chief Justice P D Dinakaran resigned in July 2011 ahead of the initiation of a removal motion against him in the Rajya Sabha.
  • Justice Soumitra Sen of the Calcutta HC argued his case unsuccessfully before the Rajya Sabha which passed the motion for his removal.
  • Sen resigned before the LokSabha could take up the motion.

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