New Delhi/Kolkata, May 1 : The over-three-month standoff between the Supreme Court and Calcutta High Court Justice C.S. Karnan entered a fresh round on Monday, with the apex court ordering his medical examination as it expressed doubt if he was in a fit mental condition to defend himself.
But an unfazed Justice Karnan refused to undergo a medical check-up and instead directed Delhi Police to produce the seven judges before a psychiatric board.
Observing that Karnan was making “press statements with abject impunity”, the seven-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar ordered that no tribunal or authority should take cognisance of any “purported” orders passed by him.
It directed the West Bengal’s Director Health Services to set up a medical board comprising doctors of the state-run mental health facility Pavlov Government Hospital in Kolkata to examine Karnan on May 4.
“The tenor of the press briefings, as also, the purported judicial orders passed by Justice C.S. Karnan, prima facie suggest, that he may not be in a fit medical condition, to defend himself, in the present proceedings.
“We therefore consider it appropriate, to require him to be medically examined, before proceeding further,” the court ordered.
The Board of Doctors would submit a report before May 8, a day before the next hearing, on “whether or not Shri Justice Karnan is in a fit condition to defend himself”.
The court also directed the state Director General of Police to set up a team of police to assist the medical board.
The bench noted that ever since contempt proceedings were initiated against him, Justice Karnan has been “expressing further disrespect” to the top court and also been making “press statements with abject impunity”.
However, within hours, an unfazed Justice Kannan called a media conference at his Newtown residence in Kolkata’s northeastern fringes and, termed as “ridiculous” the apex court’s order.
Karnan even threatened to “pass suo motu suspension order against the Director General of Police of West Bengal, if the DGP functions against my wish”.
Instead, he ordered the Delhi Police to produce the seven apex court judges before a psychiatric medical board under the AIIMS hospital in New Delhi and submit a report on or before May 7 after conducting “appropriate medical tests”.
“The seven accused judges have desperately adopted this ridiculous order, in order to escape the punishment leviable via the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (prevention of) atrocity act,” Karnan said.
“With their phenomenal behaviour, it is the said seven judges who actually require medical examination,” he said.
Justice Karnan claimed the order was an “additional insult” to a Dalit judge like him, who is of “sound health and mind”.
“I further direct the Director General of Police, New Delhi to take all the seven accused judges and produce them to a psychiatric medical board attached to the AIIMS Hospital in New Delhi to conduct appropriate medical tests and submit a copy of the report on or before May 7,” he said.
Karnan is facing contempt charges for degrading the judiciary and making allegations of corruption against Supreme Court judges in January.
On February 8, the Supreme Court issued him a contempt notice, an unprecedented step against a sitting judge, and asked him to appear before the bench in person and not discharge any judicial and administrative functions during the pendency of the proceedings.
As Karnan failed to appear, the apex court on March 10, in another unprecedented move, issued a bailable warrant against him.
But the judge escalated the row by d ordering a Central Board of Investigation probe against the the seven judges.
Four days later, the West Bengal DGP served the bailable warrant on Karnan, who, however, dismissed it as “immaterial”.
On March 31, Karnan appeared before the seven-judge bench and was given four weeks to respond to the contempt notice.
But, he renewed the confrontation on April 13, passing a “judicial order” against the seven-judge bench for “violating” the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and directed them to “appear” before him on April 28.
Later in an order, Justice Karnan directed the Air Control Authority in New Delhi not to allow the CJI and other six judges to travel abroad.