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Curious case of Justice CS Karnan: How he defied the Supreme Court and created legal history

Months in the making, the Justice Karnan versus Supreme Court battle has set created ripples and made the judge a household name.

May 11, 2017 / 07:18 PM IST

The legal battle between Calcutta High Court judge Justice CS Karnan took an interesting turn today after the judge was reported to have gone missing after the apex court held him guilty of contempt of court and order his arrest.

Months in the making, the battle -- unprecedented in the way a sitting High Court judge and the country's highest legal authority had been duking it out -- has set created ripples and made the judge a household name.

The genesis of the battle dates back to when the Madras High Court initiated a process to select new judges for the court. Justice Karnan, not happy with the way the appointments were being considered, initiated proceedings against the process and stayed it.

After legal wrangling with Madras High Court, the matter went to Supreme Court, following which a fresh battle ensued with the apex court.

At various points, Karnan has accused the that he has been subjected harassment to discrimination because he was a Dalit.


In the latest fiasco, Justice Karnan alleged corruption charges against 20 High Court and Supreme Court judges and sent it to the Prime Minister.

It culminated into the Supreme Court initiating contempt of court proceedings against Karnan.

Here is a list of unprecedented events that have taken place in the Justice Karnan case so far:

First of its kind

The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court initiated contempt of court proceedings against Karnan on February 7, which is a first of its kind, as a contempt notice was issued against a sitting judge.

CS Karnan did not appear in court on March 10. For the first time in the history of the SC, the court issued a warrant to a sitting HC judge.


After the warrant, Justice Karnan shocked the country by passing an order on the same day, directing the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate and file a report against all the seven judges,  including the Chief Justice and Attorney General.

Rs 14 crore demand

CS Karnan demanded Rs 14 crore compensation from the seven judges in charge of his contempt case. He threatened the judges to withdraw their judicial and administrative work should they fail to pay the compensation money within a week.

First appearance

On March 31, Justice Karnan finally appeared in court. He requested that the Chief Justice restore his judicial work and informed the bench that he would not attend the next hearing and that the court may arrest him if it pleases.

Supreme Court judges behind bar?

Justice Karnan passed an order on May 8, “sentencing” the seven senior-most judges of the Supreme Court, including the CJI of India to five years imprisonment under the SC/ST Act.

Karnan missing

On May 9, the SC sentenced Justice Karnan to six months of imprisonment for contempt of court, saying: "We are of the unanimous view that Justice Karnan is in contempt of this court and of the judiciary and judicial process of grievous nature. We are satisfied in punishing him for contempt of court. We sentence him to imprisonment for six months. The sentence shall be extended forthwith."

Today, it was reported that Justice Karnan had gone missing for the past two days.
first published: May 11, 2017 07:18 pm

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