A day after the arrest of former Calcutta High Court judge CS Karnan, the Supreme Court on Wednesday refused to entertain his plea for interim bail. The apex court also refused to suspend the six-month sentence awarded to him for contempt of court.
The apex court said it was duty-bound by the seven-judge bench’s order in the case and “cannot override it”.
“The matter has been heard by a seven-judge bench and order has been passed. The order is binding on us. We in vacation cannot override it. It is nothing we can do,” a vacation bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and S K Kaul said.
Appearing for the retired judge, advocate Mathews J Nedumpara said equity demanded that he be granted bail till the court reopened.
However, the bench said, “All equity is subject to law and judicial discipline. You mention the matter before the bench of chief justice.”
Justice Karnan was arrested in Coimbatore on Tuesday evening after being on the run for more than a month.
Karnan, who retired on June 12 as Calcutta High Court judge had been in Coimbatore since May 9 when the apex court held him guilty for contempt of court and sentenced him for six months.
Karnan became the first sitting high court judge to be sent to jail by the apex court. He is also the first to have retired as a fugitive.
A seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, had on May 9 directed the West Bengal director general of police to take the then serving judge into custody immediately.
Despite several attempts, Karnan failed to get any relief from the apex court’s vacation benches which refused to hear his plea seeking a stay of its jail term order. His lawyers also claimed to have approached President Pranab Mukherjee for exercising his power to stay the apex court’s order, but that too didn’t work.
After being sentenced, Karnan had on May 12 moved the apex court for relief, saying neither the high courts nor their judges were “subordinate” to it. He had sought recall of the apex court’s order, contending he could not be held guilty of contempt of court. Karnan had said the Contempt of Courts Act was a “cathartic jurisprudence which belonged to the Dark Ages, the era of inquisition and torture, distinct from the classical Roman Law which constitutes the foundation of modern jurisprudence”.
He had also sought a stay on all “further proceedings” pursuant to the May 9 order.
Earlier, the apex court had issued a bailable warrant against him to secure his presence in the contempt case. He had appeared before the apex court on March 31, a first in Indian judicial history, and had asked for restoration of his powers as a precondition for his re-appearance, but the plea was rejected.
Earlier, Justice Karnan was transferred from the Madras High Court to the Calcutta High Court. On February 15, 2016, he stayed his transfer order after the apex court asked the Chief Justice of Madras High Court not to assign any judicial work to him.
Justice Karnan had written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Pranab Mukherjee accusing several senior judges of corruption.
(With inputs from PTI)