India’s Supreme Court on Tuesday sentenced a sitting judge to six months’ imprisonment for contempt of court, an unprecedented development in the country’s judicial history, local media reported.
Justice CS Karnan, 61, from the Calcutta High Court, was accused of contempt after he named 20 “corrupt judges” in January and sought a probe alleging corruption in the judiciary.
The accusations sparked a full-blown row between Karnan and India’s top court which recently ordered his psychiatric evaluation to ascertain if he was mentally ill.
Karnan recently turned away the team of doctors and ordered mental evaluation for the judges instead, even as he refused to show up at court or submit to its orders.
“We are of the unanimous opinion that Justice CS Karnan has committed contempt of court, judiciary and judicial process of the gravest nature,’’ Chief Justice J S Khehar said, ordering police to arrest Karnan.
The immediate provocation appeared to be Karnan’s sentencing Khehar and seven judges to five years’ jail Monday, saying they were guilty of caste discrimination.
He alleged that he was being victimised because he belonged to the low-caste Dalit community.
Karnan is the first judge in India to be sentenced to jail by court.
Legal experts questioned the ruling, saying the constitution did not allow the Supreme Court to exercise powers over the state high courts.
“The high court and Supreme Court judges have very similar jurisdictions under the constitution.
“There is no administrative hierarchy between them,’’ senior lawyer Indira Jaising told newsmen.