The over-three-month standoff between the Supreme Court and Justice C S Karnan entered a new stage on Monday, with the apex court ordering his medical examination and the Calcutta High Court judge hitting back by ordering Delhi Police to produce the seven judges before a psychiatric board.
The issue that has been grabbing headlines since January took a new turn as a seven-judge Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar directed setting up of a medical board to examine Karnan on May 4 and ordered that no tribunal or authority should take cognisance of any orders passed by him.
The medical evaluation has to be submitted on May 8, a day before the next hearing of the matter.
The court directed the West Bengal Director General of Police to constitute a police team to assist the medical board in conducting the medical examination.
However, within hours, an unfazed Justice Kannan called a media conference at his Newtown residence in Kolkata's northeastern fringes and termed as "ridiculous" the apex court's order for conducting a medical examination on him.
Instead, he ordered the Delhi Police to produce the seven apex court judges before a psychiatric medical board under the AIIMS hospital in New Delhi and submit a report on or before May 7 after conducting "appropriate medical tests".
"The said order is a ridiculous order without proper application of mind in following appropriate procedures as required…the seven accused judges have desperately adopted this ridiculous order, in order to escape the punishment leviable via the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (prevention of) atrocity act," Karnan said.
"With their phenomenal behaviour, it is the said seven judges who actually require medical examination," he said.
Justice Karnan claimed the order was an "additional insult" to a Dalit judge like him, who is of "sound health and mind".
"I further direct the Director General of Police, New Delhi to take all the seven accused judges and produce them to a psychiatric medical board attached to the AIIMS Hospital in New Delhi to conduct appropriate medical tests and submit a copy of the report on or before May 7," he said.
Karnan is facing contempt charges for degrading the judiciary and making allegations of corruption against Supreme Court judges.
He had shot off a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 23, naming 20 "corrupt judges", and seeking probe against them to curb "high corruption" in the Indian judiciary.
The Supreme Court responded on February 8 by issuing a contempt notice to Karnan, an unprecedented step against a sitting judge, for writing letters casting aspersions on several judges.
Karnan was also asked to appear before the bench in person five days later and told not to discharge any judicial and administrative functions during the pendency of the proceedings.
As Karnan failed to appear, the apex court on March 10, in another unprecedented move, issued a bailable warrant against him.
But the same day, the judge escalated the row by holding a press conference and ordering the Central Board of Investigation (CBI) to probe all the seven apex court judges in the constitution bench.
Four days later, the West Bengal Director General of Police served the bailable warrant on Karnan, who, however, dismissed it as "immaterial".
On March 31, Karnan appeared before the seven-judge bench and was given four weeks to respond to the contempt notice.
But, he renewed the confrontation on April 13, calling the media yet again, and said he has passed a "judicial order" against seven Supreme Court judges, including Chief Justice Khehar, for "violating" the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and directed them to "appear" before him on April 28.