New Delhi: Calcutta High Court judge C S Karnan is in for difficult times following the Supreme Court order of sentencing him to jail for six months under contempt charge. The order has been passed by no less than seven senior-most judges in the top court. Director General of Police, West Bengal, has been ordered to ascertain the HC judge is made to serve the sentence.
So what can Justice Karnan do now to avoid being thrown behind bars?
The only ground of reprieve available to Justice Karnan is in the Supreme Court order itself.
The order dictated by Chief Justice of India J S Khehar on Tuesday morning recorded that detailed reasons as to why the HC judge was being handed down the maximum sentence under the Contempt of Court Act would be given later by a supplementary judgment. So, even as a short order convicting and punishing Justice Karnan was pronounced on Monday, the grounds and the reasons are yet to be spelled out by the apex court.
This inadequacy in the court order could be the last ray of hope for Justice Karnan, who has a right under Article 137 of the Constitution to seek review of the judgment.
Article 137 empowers the Supreme Court to reconsider and modify its own orders. It is a right with every person aggrieved by an order or a judgment by the apex court to seek review by invoking Article 137.
But, notably, Justice Karnan doesn’t know the grounds of his conviction and jail term, and hence he cannot file the review petition.
He will, therefore, do good to move an application before the Supreme Court, citing this lacuna. Justice Karnan may press for suspension of his sentence, contending he would not be in a position to file review petition till the time the seven judge-bench releases the detailed order with grounds and reasons.
The HC judge can assert his right to seek review of the order and may state that he cannot be sent to jail without being given the reasons.
If advised well, Justice Karnan, while moving the application for suspending his sentence until the detailed order is released, may also furnish an unqualified apology to mitigate the contempt charges.
During the hearing, CJI Khehar had observed that Justice Karnan was a citizen first and then a judge. The HC judge should now make the same argument in requesting the bench to stay his arrest until the detailed order is passed — as any other citizen would have asked for.