SC issues contempt notice to sitting HC Judge CS Karnan

Justice Karnan

SC issues contempt notice to Justice Karnan


Justice Karnan case: Background

  • Justice CS Karnan, serving as Judge of Madras High Court till February 2016.
  • He has been trasferred to High court of Calcutta from his parent High Court, Madras.
  • In February 2016, Justice Karnan did not accept the collegium’s proposal to transfer him out of the Madras High Court.
  • He “suo motu” stayed his transfer order, issued by then Chief Justice of India TS Thakur on 12 February 2016.
  • Judicial and administrative work from Karnan was withdrawn but the Supreme Court allowed him to contest the transfer petition in apex court.
  • The Registrar General of the Madras High Court had stated that 12 files of the high court were still with Justice Karnan and these were required to be returned.
  • He had joined the Calcutta High Court in March 2016 after the President signed his warrant of transfer and set a deadline.

Justice Karnan

Justice Karnan’s reaction

  • Justice Karnan sought response from the CJI regarding his transfer while asking him “not to interfere” with his jurisdiction.
  • Justice Karnan questioned the authority of the CJI as the head of the Collegium to issue transfer orders for “better administration”.
  • Days after the court order for withdrawing of all judicial and administrative work, Justice Karnan, wrote a letter to the CJI, blamed his actions on “loss of mental balance due to mental frustrations” over alleged caste bias against him in the High Court.
  • He had written a letter dated December 21, 2016 to the Supreme Court Registry seeking permission to argue the case in person, which was allowed.
  • In December 2016, Justice Karnan had sought the permission of the apex court to appear in-person to argue a case relating to his own transfer to Calcutta High Court from the Madras High Court.
  • He has frequently raised the issue of his caste status, complaining to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and even threatening to file criminal charges under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against chief justices and other judges, in justification of his conduct, has only served to trivialise the issue of caste discrimination and the genuine difficulties that Dalits face.

Justice Karnan case: SC Bench verdict

  • A seven-judge Bench of the senior most judges of the Supreme Court on February 8, in an unprecedented move, issued contempt of court notice against Justice Karnan.
  • The Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar ordered Justice Karnan to appear in person before the Bench on February 13 to show cause to the Supreme Court why a contempt notice should not be issued to him.
  • The Bench also comprised Justices Dipak Misra, J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur, P.C. Ghose and Kurian Joseph.
  • The Bench directed Justice Karnan to forthwith refrain from undertaking any judicial or administrative work and return all his official files to the Calcutta HC Registry.
  • This is the first time in Indian history, SC issues contempt notice to sitting high court judge.

Who is Justice Karnan?

  • Justice Chinnaswamy Swaminathan Karnan was born on 12.06.1955 at Karnatham Village, Virudhachalam Taluk, Cuddalore District.
  • He completed B.Sc. graduation at the New College, Chennai. Subsequently, embarked on law study at Madras Law College and completed the Course in the year 1983.
  • After completion of law graduation from Madras Law college, enrolled as Advocate before the Bar Counsel of Tamil Nadu and started practice in the Civil Side.
  • Served as a Judge at the Madras High Court for the last 8 years and gaining steadily in the field of Judicial assignments and reform.
  • Transferred to Calcutta High Court on Mar 11, 2016.