Everyone’s favourite punching bag – the ‘media’ - has been gagged by a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court, led by the Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, from reporting anything which the justice says.

Who should the media go by Karnan or SC A comedy of orders a tragedy in lawPTI
Voices Media Tuesday, May 09, 2017 - 18:23

When the modern history of Indian jurisprudence is revisited, say 100 years from now, la affaire Justice Karnan will provide students of law with questions of deep Constitutional complexity, and a lot to laugh about.

It will also teach students of media that they must expect nothing from the brotherhood of judges but to use everything in their power to protect themselves from scathing public criticism, even if it emerges from within.

Think about it. The Supreme Court of India is embattled with one of its own judges at the High Court. They call each other ‘mentally unstable’ and order medical checkups, they issue contempt orders against each other, they set aside each other’s orders, trade charges of corruption, and now, the High Court judge is facing a six-month jail term. But he still walks to the media calmly and addresses them, brazening it out. He claimed neither was he a slave, nor were the SC judges his masters.

No one remembers where all of this started, and we are yet to see how it ends.

Meanwhile, everyone’s favourite punching bag – the ‘media’ - has been gagged by a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court, led by the Chief Justice of India JS Khehar, from reporting anything which the justice says. Justice Karnan smiled, and set aside that order as well. Many in the media are not sure if they can report what he told the media further. What are we in the media supposed to do? Listen to the SC, or Karnan?

The SC’s ban on the media had journalists and many in the legal fraternity up in arms, with many questioning the constitutional validity of the order.

For example, what can the SC do when someone is not reporting on what Justice Karnan says, like this?

The more intelligent people wondered what a bad precedent the gag order had set as it is difficult to challenge an order when a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court endorses it.

As much as the Karnan saga seems like a comedy of orders, it has also become a tragedy in law, because it has left behind a series of unimplementable orders, questioning the credibility of the orders.

On Monday, Justice Karnan awarded five-year "rigorous imprisonment" to seven Supreme Court judges and imposed a fine of Rs 100,000 on each of them under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 and the amended Act of 2015.

The apex court had earlier asked all courts and tribunals not to take cognizance of any orders issued by Justice Karnan, set to retire in June. They also initiated contempt proceedings against Justice Karnan on February 8 and restrained him from performing judicial and administrative work.

The judge remained unrestrained and continued with his tirade against the Supreme Court judges, accusing them of caste bias, with him being a Dalit.

These recent events have also thrown open the legal challenge a High Court judge faces if they want to blow the whistle on corruption in higher judiciary. It isn’t tough to imagine a court riddled with corrupt judges, and one of them might want to open the can of worms – will that person have to go through the same?

 

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