There is a strange a set of developments that has been reported from Madras High Court which reflects a serious threat to the way people look at Judges.
For records, I refer to the article “Judge Threatens Madras HC Chief Justice with contempt”.
According to this report, a Judge of the Madras High Court, has issued a Suo moto judicial order against an administrative order of the Chief Justice constituting a recruitment committee to select civil judges.
The objection raised is to the presence of one individual member in the committee and not any decision of the committee. While raising the objections, the Judge Karnan has invoked caste and community considerations and passed remarks on his colleagues which could be considered as defamatory.
Additionally, he has held out an open threat to the Chief Justice that SC and ST atrocities (prevention) act will be invoked by him against the Chief justice Sanjay Kaul besides a contempt of Court proceedings, if his order is interfered with.
The bone of contention is the recruitment committee comprising 5 judges, namely Justices, V Dhanapalan, R Sudhakar, D Hariparanthaman, N.Kirubakaran and R Mala along with TN public Service Commission Chairman and other officers, which is to interview candidates for selection as civil judges. Justice Karnan has raised objection that Justice Dhanapalan has allegedly produced “bogus educational qualifications” about his bachelor and masters degree in law and also raised objections that the committee does not have a representation of a “Muslim Judge” and a “Christian Judge”.
Obviously, the Chief Justice of Madras High Court has referred the matter to the Supreme Court and a bench of the Supreme Court headed by the Chief justice of India will consider the reference on Monday (11th May 2015).
The incident has raised many issues that need to be addressed by the Highest Court and is likely to be a starting point for a greater debate on where our Judiciary is heading? and how our Government’s policies of appeasement of vote banks is corrupting the Judicial system in the country.
The incident has first of all raised an issue of whether a “Judge of a High Court can over rule the administrative decision of the Chief Justice by a suo moto judicial order?”. The alternate option available to the judge if he was aggrieved was to move the Supreme Court as a petitioner objecting to the Chief Justice’s order. There was also an opportunity for a member of public to raise the issue before the Court through a PIL and if it had come before him, he could have acted. However the judge has taken the decision to use his Judicial powers to pass an order against the administrative decision of the Chief Justice and also tried to tie up the hands of the Chief Justice with a notice of “Contempt of Court” if he decides to use his judicial powers to over rule the decision. By this yard stick, any order of the single judge if taken up by a larger bench of the same court would be constituting a “Contempt of Court” according to the precedent set by this Judge.
The moot point now is that when the Supreme Court hears this matter,
Will this Judge also take a suo moto case against the Chief Justice of India that he has also committed a Contempt of Court?
If not, how does he distinguish that there would be contempt of court if the Chief Justice of Madras takes a decision to say constitute a larger bench of the Madras High Court to consider the objections raised by a brother judge but not when the Supreme Court takes it up?
Does this mean that in future objections against a single judge of a High Court can only be appealed or reviewed by a higher court and not the same court with larger bench?.
What will then happen to the decision of a single judge of the Supreme Court itself?
Will it be immune to further revision of any kind?
Obviously, Justice Karnan has raised an issue which is likely to cause a type of constitutional crisis.
Another issue that Justice Karnan has raised is on the educational qualifications of a fellow Judge. If the allegations are being made, they are defamatory in nature and possibly the victim fellow Judge has a case for “Suo Moto Registration of a defamation and Contempt of Court” case in his Court and pass orders that Justice Karnan should be further charged. If he does it, it will be an amusing battle of the two judges each taking up contempt charges against the other and using their individual judicial powers to summon each other and pass orders against each other!.
(This hypothetical possibility reminds me of instances in the Indian mythology, about discussions on whether a Bramhastra can be invoked in defence against Bramhastra. Normally it is said that it is disrespect for the astra to do so. In Ramayana, at one instance Hanuman out of respect for Bramhastra submits himself to be bound by Indrajit though he had a boon of immunity against Bramhastra. This Judge Vs Judge fight each using the Contempt astra is similar to such an incident.)
At this point of time we donot know what evidences Justice Karnan has with him to prove his charge on Justice Dhanapalan, based on which he has pronounced some Judicial orders. If he is not able to provide the proof himself immediately before the Supreme Court on Monday when the hearing takes place, there will be a prima facie case of “Contempt against Justice Dhanapalan”. If he produces evidence, that will be a separate dispute where Justice Karnan is the petitioner and Justice Dhanapalan is the respondent and perhaps CBI will investigate. The Court of Jurisdiction for this is perhaps the Supreme Court and not the High Court of Madras.
Yet another dispute which has now come on the table is whether there can be “Dalit Judge”, “Muslim Judge” and “Christian Judge”?… And by implication, is Justice Karnan suggesting that there should be tags of a “Hindu Judge”, “Jain Judge”, “OBC Judge”, “Yadav Judge”, “Reddy Judge”, “Khamma Judge”, “Lingayat Judge”, ..etc etc…?
This tagging of judges on the basis of caste and religion and threat of invoking SC & ST Atrocities (Prevention) Act for routine judicial matters such as a judgement of a Dalit Judge, is a worrying indication of corruption in the system. Justice Karnan is implying that if any of his decisions are questioned, there is a Caste angle to the opposition. This very implication itself is objectionable. His attempts to draw other controversies based on religion is likely to arouse further divide in the Judicial circles based on religion. The next logical objection will be whether in every case we need to check the religious affiliations of the Judge vis a vis the caste and religion of the litigants. If the two litigants are of different castes, may be it is necessary that the Judge should belong to neither of their castes (!).
If respect has to prevail in Judiciary, Judiciary should shed the tag of “Dalit Judge” or “Muslim Judge” or “Christian Judge” and declare that once a person assumes charge of a “Judge” at whatever level, he ceases to be recognized for his religion or caste. He should be considered to have given up his religion at least as far as his professional standing is considered. He should not seek any favours because of his caste or religion. This also means that any promotions of Judges should not be based on his being from a particular caste or religion.
I wish that the Supreme Court makes such a declaration when it hears the reference of the Madras High Court and declares that there is no religion for a Judge, he is deemed to have given up all his rights based on caste and religion as soon as he became the Judge and no law based on religion can be invoked by any judge.
As regards the alleged fraud by a fellow Judge on educational matters, the Supreme Court perhaps has the option to suggest that the complainant judge can petition with the Supreme Court with evidence and it could be a taken up as a separate litigation. It can also provide an option to the alleged Co-Judge to initiate defamation proceedings at the Supreme Court at a personal level.
All in all, the developments at Supreme Court tomorrow will be highly interesting and perhaps will be much more important than the Judgement in Jayalalitha case which is expected from the Karnataka High Court on the same day.
Will the media recognize the importance of the two disputes “Justice Karnan Vs Justice Dhanapalan and “Justice Karnan Vs Chief Justice of Madras High Court” both of which will simultaneously be before the Supreme Court tomorrow?.
Will Arnab Goswami have the guts to challenge if Justice Karnan is a real victim or a person suffering from persecution complex?
PS: This is not a “Fake News” nor an imaginary case study of “Karna”, the legendary character of Mahabharata. This is “Real” and belongs to the category of “Believe it or Not”.
We believe there is no “Contempt of Court” since what is presented here is based on facts before the public and the comments constitute a reasonable journalistic remark on a development of public interest.
If any Judicial person or authority is hurt by this report, (I am sure there will be many such souls living and dead), my sincere apologies to them since I share the same acute agony with them that the Indian Judiciary should come to this state of affairs and the highly respected Madras High Court has become an object of such discussion.