In a First, SC Issues Contempt Notice to Sitting HC Judge Karnan

The SC has directed Justice CS Karnan to refrain from carrying out any judicial and administrative work.

2 min read
File photo of the Supreme Court of India. (Photo: Reuters)

In an unprecedented hearing, a seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court on Wednesday issued notice to Calcutta High Court Judge CS Karnan, asking him to appear in person on 13 February in the suo motu proceedings initiated against him by the apex court.

The bench also directed Justice Karnan to withdraw from all legal and administrative work and return all the files to the High Court. The top court has asked its registry to furnish a copy of the order to Justice Karnan during the course of the day.

The seven-member bench included Chief Justice JS Khehar, and Justices Dipak Misra, J Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B Lokur, Pinaki Chandra Ghose and Kurian Joseph. Justice Karnan is the first serving High Court judge against whom such proceedings have been initiated.


The proceedings have been initiated after Justice Karnan allegedly wrote letters to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Chief Justice, and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, levelling allegations of corruption against certain members of the higher judiciary.

Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi argued that the allegations are not regarding any transaction, but they are public communications, which are disparaging, to say the least, and bring disrepute to the system of administration of justice.

The bench said this is an unprecedented situation and that they will be as careful as they can be. It also added that it is yet to be established if those communications were written by Justice Karnan.

A Controversial Figure

Justice Karnan, who hails from Cuddalore district in Tamil Nadu, made allegations of corruption and caste bias against other judges during his stint at the Madras High Court.

In February 2016, he was transferred to the Calcutta High Court by the then Chief Justice of India, TS Thakur. Justice Karnan had then stayed his own transfer orders.

However, later he apologised for his action to the Chief Justice of India. According to a report in the Economic Times, Justice Karnan said his actions were a result of "loss of mental balance due to mental frustrations" caused due to alleged caste bias against him in the high court.

Last month, Justice Karnan had sought permission from the Supreme Court to argue in person the petition he had filed against his transfer. The apex court, which is hearing that case separately, had granted his request.

(This article was first published on BloombergQuint.)

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