This spring proved the beginning of a new tale of distress and grief for the low-caste Hindus of India. According to the details narrated by the Washington Post, “Caste prejudice is endemic in Hindu-majority India, even though the constitution outlaws the practice and has made it a crime punishable by up to a year in prison. The law also states that anyone accused of a caste-related crime could face immediate arrest. However, last month the Supreme Court ruled that in order to prevent misuse of the law, government officers accused of flouting it can be arrested only after their supervisors sign off on an inquiry.” This ruling of the Supreme Court of India triggered off an air of insecurity and anxiety among the low-caste Hindus particularly among the Dalits. They announced a nationwide strike in protest on 2nd April. Particularly in Ahmadabad thousands of Dalits thronged the roads with bows and arrows and started raising slogans against the Supreme Court of India and the Modi government. The protest spread like wild fire in several parts of north and central India too. The protesters were of the opinion that the orders from the Supreme Court would simply ‘dilute legal safeguards put in place for their marginalized community’.
Earlier in 2017, a judge of the High-Court Mr. C.S. Karnan had also brought his protest on record regarding the atrocities against the low-caste Hindus in India by writing an open letter to the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, in which he had urged an action against 20 judges and three senior law officials who were involved in different types of corruption and racial injustice. His writing a letter to the Prime Minister was dealt as contempt of court and consequently he had to face a six-month imprisonment ‘awarded’ to him by the Supreme Court of India. In this way, Mr. C.S. Karnan became the first Indian High Court judge who was sent to prison for contempt of court. Writing letters to the high-command regarding corruption and biasness of his fellow judges had been a salient rather regular feature of Justice C. S. Karnan personality; in November 2011, Karnan wrote to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes alleging caste-based harassment from other judges of the Madras High Court. Addressing a press conference organized in his chamber, he said that he had faced such “humiliation and embarrassment since April 2009” and that it still continued. He spoke of a specific incident when a judge “touched him with his foot”. Unfortunately instead of listening to complaints of Justice Karnan, a Dalit by caste, a seven-judge Supreme Court bench ordered a psychiatric evaluation of Justice Karnan by a panel of government doctors to ascertain if he was mentally ill and directed the West Bengal police to assist the medical team in this matter. India’s Chief Justice JS Khehar was also among the members of the bench. In response to the orders of his psychiatric evaluation, Justice Karnan ‘back-fired’ by issuing orders of psychiatric examination of the seven Supreme Court judges who had passed the orders against him. He directed the police chief of New Delhi to offer assistance in this regard. This ‘judicial-game’ came to an end when Justice Karnan was released from Presidency Jail in Kolkata after serving a six-month sentence on 21st December 2017. It certainly conveys a very bad national impression when the honourable members of judiciary in a country are in a state of war with each other. The situation must not reach such a stage anywhere as judiciary is the last ray of hope even for a man in the street. When a common man sees the judges quarreling with each other, he loses all hopes regarding his own safety and security. So such situation must always be avoided if possible but the question arises here; what were the actual factors which compelled Justice Karnan to raise hue and cry against his fellow judges?
Analysts say that whatever Justice Karnan did was nothing but a reaction to the atrocities against the low-caste Hindus in India as he himself belongs to the Dalit community. In the Indian media, Justice Karnan is known as ‘a rebel without a pause’. During his seven-year tenure as a high court judge in Chennai from 2009, he accused at least two chief justices of discriminating against him because of his caste. He also accused a fellow judge of raping an intern but this allegation of him is yet to be proven. According to the BBC News, Justice Karnan was generally in a habit of antagonizing his colleagues, so much so that at the end of 2014 several of his fellow judges petitioned the chief justice of India, demanding his transfer because they couldn’t work with him. When the Supreme Court did transfer him to Kolkata, he passed an order staying his own transfer. Whatever Justice Karnan had been doing throughout his career as a judge, seems his reaction against the horrible caste system of India. The strongest proof in this regard is that he had issued a suo-motu judicial order against Chief Justice of India J S Khehar and six other Supreme Court judges on April 13 2017 and had asked them to appear before him at his residence by 11.30 in the morning on April 28 for violation of the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Atrocities Act by them. The game is still on; let us wait what happens next.