In unprecedented happenings in the country's judicial corridors, the Supreme Court on Friday issued a bailable warrant against Calcutta High Court Justice C.S. Karnan for refusing to heed summons to appear, and the judge hit back by ordering the CBI to probe all the seven apex court judges in the constitution bench.
In perhaps another unheard step, Justice Karnan held a press conference - conveyed at a short notice - railing against the Supreme Court order, calling it an "attempt to ruin" his life as a Dalit judge, and directed that a case be filed under the SC and ST Act.
The day started with a seven-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar asking the West Bengal Director General of Police to serve the bailable warrant personally to Justice Karnan and sought his presence before it on March 31.
The bench also asked Justice Karnan to furnish a personal bond of Rs 10,000.
The order came as Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the court that Justice Karnan had refused to appear before the court in a contempt case initiated by it suo moto.
The court also said that the Registry of the Supreme Court had received a text message from Justice Karnan on March 8, "seeking a meeting with CJI and other judges so as to discuss certain administrative issues which primarily seem to reflect allegations against certain judges.
"The letter can't be considered as response to contempt petition. In view of the above, there is no alternative but to ensure his presence in the court by issuing bailable warrant."
Besides Chief Justice Khehar, other judges on the bench are Justice Dipak Misra, Justice J. Chelameswar, Justices Ranjan Gogoi, Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Justice Kurian Joseph.
Earlier, the Supreme Court bench had issued contempt notice to Justice Karnan for writing letters casting aspersions on several judges. It had also said Justice Karnan would not discharge any judicial and administrative functions during the pendency of the proceedings.
It is for the first time in the Supreme Court history that it has invoked powers to initiate contempt proceedings against a sitting judge of a High Court.
Justice Karnan had in January named 20 "corrupt judges", seeking probe against them to curb "high corruption" in the Indian judiciary.
At the outset of Friday's hearing, Rohatgi told the court that the contempt notice had been served to Justice Karnan and "we got to know that he wrote two letters to the CJI" with allegations against some Madras High Court judges.
Within a couple of hours after the Supreme Court order, Justice Karnan spoke to the media at his residence in Newtown of North East Kolkata and asked President Pranab Mukherjee to recall the "unconstitutional" and "illegally issued" warrant, arguing contempt proceedings cannot be initiated against a sitting High Court judge.
"It is unconstitutional... Only a motion of impeachment can be initiated against a sitting judge of the higher judiciary before the Parliament after due enquiry under the Judges Enquiry Act.
"Consequently I ask the President of India to recall the bailable warrant illegally issued by the Supreme Court today against me and lift non-work allotment ban of portfolio allocation," he said.
Signing a suo-motu order before the media persons, and issued to President Mukherjee and CBI director among others, Karnan directed that a case be registered under appropriate sections of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Act and other penal provisions against the seven judges, including Chief Justice Khehar, and Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi.
"I direct the CBI director to register, investigate and file a report," said Karnan, mentioning that he was invoking his inherent power under the High Court to "prevent abuse of process of any court and secure ends of justice".
"I further direct the Secretary-Generals of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha to place the entire facts of the case before the Speaker for appropriate enquiry under the Judges Enquiry Act," he said.
He alleged that he was being targeted after he made a representation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about some judges who had committed "illegal activities".
"This warrant is arbitrary, deliberately issued to ruin my life, my career. A Dalit judge (is being) prevented from doing work in a public office. That is atrocity," he said.
The bench on February 8 had directed Justice Karnan to appear in person to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him.