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Fugitive ‘Justice’

Editorial |

Were there not such grave, nationwide implications to the defiance of a punitive order of the Supreme Court of India, as well as their Lordships' inability to galvanise the law and order machinery into effecting an arrest required for its sentence to be carried out, there would have been an amusing angle to Justice CS Karnan “retiring” without going behind bars, as ordered by his judicial peers.

That a former judge of a High Court could so cynically evade arrest only compounds his several actions that have brought the highest judiciary, including the Chief Justice of India, into a degree of contempt that actually defies description.

It would certainly encourage others to demean and disregard the entire system by which justice is administered or occasionally mal-administered.

Would their Lordships expect serious persons to believe that they were not empowered to force the police in Kolkata and Chennai, if necessary activate the CBI or NIA, into forcing the judge to come out of hiding and “face the music”? Or does he have some residual “clout” in places where he once wielded the gavel?

If he does “surrender” now than the ignominy of a High Court judge serving a jail term would only be technically averted. The fact that he was holding high office when convicted, attempts to have his sentence reviewed were not entertained (and no action indicated on a mercy petition filed before the President) have sufficed to smear the higher judiciary at large.

The failure to thwart his seemingly successful bid at “absconding” would arouse some suspicions of complicity ~ judges going “soft” on one of their own. Something generally expected of politicians and bureaucrats, now has the malaise infected the Bench as well?

“Maverick” judges are not exactly a rarity, but those who defame the institution itself merit no sympathetic consideration. What has come a cropper during this sordid chapter in judicial history is the concept of “all are equal in the eyes of the law.”

Persons convicted by the lower courts find the might of the police arraigned against them, should they go into hiding there are slim chances of their “matter” being repeatedly “mentioned” in the apex court. Surely, if there was a determination to “bring him to book” the counsel pleading for CS Karnan could have been pressured to reveal his whereabouts.

That is why few criminals ~ some “professionals” excepted ~ find no legal representation after their case has moved beyond a certain stage.

The only point on which Karnan might merit a little sympathy is the apex court directing the media not to report anything he might say (under which law was that gag-order issued?). What is furthered by the “saga” is the need to overhaul the system by which judges appoint themselves.