Why the SC ordered media gag in the Justice Karnan case is wrong
There has been a raging debate over the Justice C S Karnan issue. While the Supreme Court sentenced him to undergo imprisonment for 6 months in a contempt case, the order also gagged the media from writing anything that Justice Karnan spoke about.
The question is could the media have been gagged from writing anything that Justice Karnan spoke about? After all the media was not part of the contempt proceedings. OneIndia spoke with Justice Santhosh Hegde, former judge of the Supreme Court about his views on the Justice Karnan case.
Media gag is wrong
Justice Hegde points out that the gag on the media was wrong. This power is not vested with the Supreme Court at least in such an instance. The SC can gag the media from speaking only in the larger interest of the nation. It is the fundamental right of the people to know what is happening, Justice Hegde said.
According to me prima facie the order to gag the media was not right. The media has not been heard in this case. It is infact the duty of the media to inform the people about what is going on. The media was not a party to these proceedings and neither were the happenings in the court being recorded in-camera.
Could the SC have convicted Justice Karnan?
Justice Hegde further said that the Supreme Court was very much in its rights to convict Justice Karnan. This is a contempt case and not an issue relating to impeachment. The powers to impeach a judge lie with the Parliament and in this case, the SC had not removed Justice Karnan from his post. This is just a criminal proceeding under a special law called Contempt of Court act. Justice Karnan and every other citizen of the country falls under the contempt of court act. The act provides what constitutes a contempt, Justice Hegde also said.
Was the conviction order right?
There is a principle that no man can be a judge in his own cause. One cannot be a judge, jury and executioner. Justice Karnan was entertained and given an opportunity to appear before the Supreme Court. It is not an ex-parte order which was passed by the Supreme Court since there was an ample opportunity given to him. The law required that this be done, Justice Hegde noted.
What about Justice Karnan's own orders
While I feel that the order of the SC ordering a medical test on him is debatable, there is no way that Justice Karnan could have delivered judgments. The orders he has passed are not orders says Justice Hegde. His judicial powers had been taken away. In Justice Karnan's case, the principle that no judge can be the judge, jury and executioner applies.
The case in brief
Justice Karnan who was transferred to the Calcutta High Court had raised issues such as caste discrimination. After shooting off letters about the judges, he was summoned by the Supreme Court which initiated contempt proceedings against him. He had appeared once, but refused to tender an apology. He instead passed orders against the judges of the SC who were hearing his case. He was accorded another opportunity to appear, but failed to do so. After ordering a medical examination to test his mental health, the SC a week later sentenced him to six months imprisonment.