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SC defers contempt hearing as Justice Karn fails to appear

New Delhi, Feb 13: The Supreme Court on Monday deferred, for three weeks, a hearing on contempt proceedings against Calcutta High Court judge Justice C.S. Karn as he did not appear before the court as directed. A seven judge constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar directed the next hearing on March 10, noting that “we are not aware of the reasons for non-appearance” of Karn, said: “We refrain from proceeding in the matter as of now.”

“Despite due notice, Shri Justice C.S. Karn has not appeared. No one has been authorised by Sri Justice C.S. Karn to represent him today. In any case, no one having a power of attorney has represented him today. We are not aware of the reason(s) for his non-appearance. It is therefore, that we refrain from proceeding with the matter as of now”, the bench said in its order. The order came even as Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that under the Supreme Court Rules, it was mandatory for Karn to appear.

Rohatgi, who is assisting the court in the matter, urged the bench to frame a charge and asked Karn to respond to it on the next date of hearing. “Frame a charge today (Monday). Record that you (Justice Karn) have not appeared and showcause him on the charge,” Rohatgi told the bench.

As Rohatgi tried to focus on Karn’s non-appearance pointing out that the tone of his February 10 communication to the Secretary General of the apex court was no different from his earlier ones, the bench said :”The letter doesn’t say he can’t appear. He says that he has not been granted time.” Justice Dipak Misra said: “We grant him more time to appear and answer to the notice.” Justice Karn, in his communication to the top court in response to its February 8 order, said: “Before obtaining any explation from me, I wish to state that the Courts have no power to enforce punishment against a sitting judge of the High Court. The said order does not conform to logic; therefore it is not suitable for execution.”

He also alleged that he was a victim of his Dalit background. The bench, which besides Chief Justice Khehar and Justice Misra, comprises Justice J. Chelameswar, Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Piki Chandra Ghose and Justice Kurian Joseph, directing Justice Karn to be present in the court on March 10 and continued its February 8 order taking away all the judicial and administrative work from him.

The bench said that the registry of the court would communicate to Justice Karn its today’s (February 13) order in the same way it had communicated the last order. The Supreme Court had on February 8 issued the contempt notice and had asked Justice Karn to appear before it on February 13. Rejecting the prayer for impleadment by some advocates, the court in its order said: “Since contempt proceedings are a matter strictly between the Court and the alleged contemnor, anyone who enters appearance and disrupts the proceedings of this case in future, should understand that he/she can be proceeded against, in consonce with law.” “All that we need to say is, that no one should appear in this matter, without due consent and authorisation,” it added. (IANS)

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Ankur Kalita