The Supreme Court on Tuesday found Justice Chinnaswamy Swaminathan Karnan guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to six months imprisonment. He is the first sitting judge to be charged with contempt in the history of Indian judiciary.
Justice Karnan emerged as part of a huge controversy in January, 2017 when he named 20 sitting and retired Supreme Court and High Court judges of being corrupt. He released the list in an open letter addressed to the prime minister which was said to be the initial list.
The Supreme Court served a showcause notice for speaking against members of the judiciary and he was pulled up by the apex court. A seven-judge bench of the Supreme Court summoned Karnan who was attached to the Calcutta High Court to appear before it and later initiated charges of contempt.
He was later found guilty of the charges. Attorney General of India Mukul Rohatgi had submitted before the bench that in order to “protect the judiciary”, Karnan should be made an example.
Justice Karnan was born in a small village named Karnatham in Tamil Nadu’s Cuddalore District on June 12, 1955. Karnan was born to a humble household albeit one that had exemplary academic pedigree. His father had won the President of India’s award in recognition of commendable work in teaching. His mother Kamalam Ammal was a homemaker.
Karnan completed his school education at the Mangalampet High School and went on to do his pre-university course at Virudhachalam Arts College. His next destination was New College, Chennai where he completed B.Sc. degree. He then joined Madras Law College and completed his law degree in 1983. After his graduation, he started civil practice. He enrolled as an advocate before the Bar Council of Tamil Nadu.
He was chosen to be legal adviser to Metro Water organisation, government advocate in civil suits and standing counsel for the Government of India. He took on higher studies as well and was part of the NCC and NSS. He has served as a judge in the Madras High Court since 2009. His name was recommended for the position by Justice (retd) AK Ganguly who was then the Chief Justice of Madras High Court.
In February 2016, his transfer was ordered to Calcutta High Court by the Supreme Court. However, he cited a nine-bench judgment of the apex court and suo-motu put a stay on the order of the CJI.