The complete judgment in the case of In Re Hon’ble Justice C.S Karnan was recently published by the Supreme Court, and is briefed herein below.


  • Chief Justice JS Khehar
  • Justice Dipak Misra,
  • Justice Jasti Chelameswar
  • Justice Ranjan Gogoi
  • Justice Madan B Lokur
  • Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose
  • Justice Kurian Joseph


Date: 09/05/2017

Matter: Contempt of Court

Nature of initiation of Proceedings: Suo-Motu


Facts in Brief: A series of allegations leveled against various judges of the Madras High Court – letters sent to highest executive and judicial authorities – alleging academic qualifications of a newly appointed judge to be “bogus”, decisions of two other judges as “not independent judicial function”, etc. – accusation against CJ of Madras HC for approaching the SC against suo-motu Order passed by J. Karnan himself and of caste segregation and “ragging” – series of allegations against several judges of the Madras HC, including illicit relationship with each other, etc. – Suo-Motu proceedings initiated for contempt of Court – Bench of seven senior-most Judges of the Supreme Court was constituted, to examine whether or not Shri Justice C.S. Karnan was guilty – accused was asked to appear in Court but did not – passed several suo-motu Orders to police Officers, Air Control Authority, etc. to register cases against the Judges of the SC (including the CJ), restrain them from travelling abroad, and even sentencing them to 5 years of rigorous imprisonment.


Decision of the Supreme Court: The Court ruled that Sri Justice C.S. Karnan has committed contempt of the judiciary. His actions were held to constitute contempt of this Court and of the judiciary of the gravest nature and he was convicted and sentenced to six months of imprisonment. The Court also ordered that no further statements made by him should be published hereafter, since the incident of contempt includes public statements and publication of orders made by him which were highlighted by the electronic and print media.


Relevant portions of the Judgment: (in brief)

“……Justice Karnan shielded himself from actions, by trumpeting his position, as belonging to an under-privileged caste” [and] “…leveled obnoxious allegations against innumerable Judges of the Supreme Court, Chief Justices of the High Courts, but mostly against Judges of the Madras High Court.”

“His public utterances turned the judicial system into a laughing stock”

“None of his actions can be considered as bona fide, especially in view of the express directions issued by this Court… requiring him to refrain from discharging any judicial or administrative work.”



Relevant Statutes (Indian Kanoon):

  • Contempt of Courts Act, S. 2(c), 12 and 14
  • Constitution of India, Article 20



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