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Defiant judge goes into hiding amid India's top court sentence

Xinhua, May 11, 2017 Adjust font size:

Defiant judge of Calcutta high court Justice Chinnaswamy Swaminathan Karnan has gone into hiding after India's top court sentenced him to six months jail term, officials said Thursday.

On Tuesday Supreme Court of India held Justice Karnan for its contempt and asked Police Chief of West Bengal to arrest him immediately. However, police officials said Justice Karnan was evading the arrest since then.

Justice Karnan flew to southern Chennai city on Tuesday morning, hours before the Supreme Court pronounced its judgement against him.

Officials said the judge stayed in a state-owned guest house at Tamil Nadu and from there went into hiding.

"A high-level team led by West Bengal Director General of Police Surajit Kar Purkayastha arrived in Chennai yesterday and met the Chennai Police Commissioner Karan Singh. A joint team was formed to arrest Justice Karnan. However, he could not be traced despite police teams looking for him at several possible places," an official said. "It seems the judge is evading his arrest."

Reports said the judge was exploring options to meet Indian President Pranab Mukherjee and even plan to challenge his sentence.

The 61-year-old is the first judge in India to be sentenced to jail by the country's top court.

The face-off between Justice Karnan and the Supreme Court started earlier this year after he wrote a letter to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi containing names of 20 "corrupt judges" and three senior law officials, urging him to act.

The Supreme Court viewed Justice Karnan's efforts as contempt of court and issued notice against him for allegedly degrading the judiciary by writing scurrilous letters against sitting and retired high court and Supreme Court judges. The court demanded an explanation from Justice Karnan and ordered him to appear in person, which he ignored.

Justice Karnan accused the Chief Justice of India J S Khehar-led seven-judge bench of caste bias in initiating proceedings against him for he belonged to a low caste Dalit community.

Karnan alleged the judges harbor a caste bias against him and that the apex court order amounts to an offence under the law to punish atrocities against Dalits and tribals. He challenged the court to refer his case to Parliament.

Justice Karnain belongs to a Dalit community. Dalits were previously known as untouchables in India and fall at the bottom of India's caste hierarchy.

To counter India's apex court, Justice Karnan set up his own makeshift court at his home in New Town, Kolkata, the capital city of India's eastern state of West Bengal, after it barred him handling any judicial or administrative function. From there he began to issue orders against Supreme Court judges including the Chief Justice of India.

Immediately after sentencing Justice Karnan to jail, the top court banned the media from reporting any of his statements or rulings. Endit