SC restrains Madras High Court judge from passing any order

Ruling comes after Justice Karnan stayed his transfer by collegium

SC restrains Madras High Court judge from passing any order

In a rare verdict, the Supreme Court on Monday restrained a Madras High Court judge from passing any judicial order, suo motu or otherwise. 

The court also stayed operation of all the orders passed by Justice C S Karnan after his transfer to the Calcutta High Court on February 12. The apex court passed the order after the controversial judge went to the extent of seeking a written statement from the Chief Justice of India and staying the order on his transfer.

The turn of events started with senior advocate K K Venugopal pointing out to the apex court that Justice Karnan has suo motu decided to hear a matter relating to his transfer, made by the Supreme Court collegium presided over by the Chief Justice of India (CJI).

Considering the gravity of the situation, a bench of Justices J S Khehar and R Banumathi stated: “It will be open to the Chief Justice of the High Court not to assign any further administrative/judicial work to him (Justice Karnan). This would imply, that no other orders shall be passed by Justice Karnan, suo motu or otherwise, in any matter not specially assigned to him.”

Despite the apex court’s order, Justice Karnan passed a two-page order, stating: “I am apt to constrain your lordship’s order after invoking Article 226 of the Constitution by staying your recommendation order (for transfer).”

“I request your lordship to submit your written statement on the said issue through your subordinates by 29.04.2016...I request your lordship not to interfere in my jurisdiction, as I am in the process of finalising an order on merit,” Justice Karnan added. This forced Venugopal to approach the apex court bench again after lunch. The counsel cited the fresh order passed by Justice Karnan during the day and sought immediate intervention.

In its updated order, the Supreme Court bench stated: “The operation of all or any administrative/judicial order(s) passed by Justice Karnan, after the issuance of the proposal of his transfer from the Madras High Court dated 12.02.2016 (unless specially assigned to him, by Hon'ble the Chief Justice), shall remain stayed till further orders.”  The bench directed for issuance of a copy of the order to Justice Karnan too.

On his part, Justice Karnan directed for sending a copy of the order to the President, prime minister, CJI and the National Commission for SC/STs among others. 

Reacting to the development, former Delhi High Court judge Justice R S Sodhi said: “This is the first time where the high court has stayed the Supreme Court’s order. Probably, the judge (Justice Karnan) may have thought it (transfer) to be an administrative order.”

“This is very abnormal situation,” he said, explaining that transfer is an in-built mechanism and a judge would always remain a judge wherever he/she works.  

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