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Justice C S Karnan of Madras high court has plunged the HC into a huge crisis by threatening contempt of court proceedings against Chief Justice Sanjay K Kaul accusing him of interfering in his judicial work and seeking a CBI probe into alleged forged educational qualification of another Judge of the HC.

Apart from contempt of court action, Justice Karnan also threatened to direct National SC/ST Commission to initiate a detailed inquiry against the HC chief justice for harassing him, a member of the dalit community, and also slapping a case against the CJ under stringent provisions of SC/ST Attrocities (Prevention) Act.

A beleaguered high court through its registrar general has rushed to the Supreme Court accusing Justice Karnan of judicial indiscipline, challenging the authority of the HC Chief Justice, passing order without jurisdiction and lacking in self-restraint. A bench headed by Chief Justice of India H L Dattu on Monday will hear the petition seeking a stay of Justice Karnan’s orders.

It all started with the CJ constituting the recruitment committee comprising Justices V Dhanapalan, R Sudhakar, D Hariparanthaman, N Kirubakaran and R Mala to interview candidates for selection as civil judges. The Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission chairman and other officers were to be part of the selection committee and it was scheduled to start oral interview of candidates form April 15 till April 21.

On April 16, Justice Karnan initiated suo motu proceedings and passed a judicial order questioning Justice Dhanapalan’s inclusion in the committee. He alleged that latter had produced “bogus educational qualifications” about his bachelor and masters degree in law, he had no locus-standi to conduct interview.

He also alleged that inclusion of Justices Sudhakar and Hariparanthaman, who hailed from the same community besides being relatives, would send a wrong signal about the fairness of selection. He went on to stay the CJ’s administrative order and restrained the public service commission chairman from conducting the interview of candidates for civil judge posts.

“In order to control the mal-administration of My Lord Chief Justice, I am passing this suo-motu judicial order in the interest of justice invoking Article 226 of the Constitution to restore the confidence in the Madras high court and confidence with the general public,” he said and ordered that two judges must be from minorities communities – one from Muslim community and another from Christian community – to give a fair representation to all communities in the recruitment committee.

On April 17, Justice Karnana’s suo motu order was placed before a division bench of Justices S Tamilvanan and C T Selvam, which stayed the April 16 order.

Despite the division bench order, Justice Karnan directed the Registry to place the matter before him on judicial side on April 30. On that day, he reiterated his earlier order and threatened the Chief Justice with contempt of court proceedings.

“This court requests My Lord the Chief Justice to extend his cooperation without any interference with my court’s proceedings and its judicial power in order to maintain decorum of the court and avoid an unhealthy practice of judiciary in the interest of the general public. My deep request to the Chief Justice is to avoid ego and stop acting in an autocratic manner to protect democracy,” Justice Karnan said in his order.

Ordering status quo on interviews to be conducted by the public service commission, Justice Karnan also threw in his dalit card.

He said: “My deep request to the Chief Justice is that you should not interfere in my judicial process in the instant case, failing which, this court will initiate contempt of court proceedings against you and also give direction to the chairman, National SC/ST Commission to initiate proceedings to conduct a detailed enquiry regarding your harassment of me being a dalit judge to make you perforce to book you under the SC/ST atrocities Act.”

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