In an extraordinary case for the Supreme Court, a seven-judge bench was set up for a contempt of court hearing. This is the first such instance of a seven-judge bench hearing a contempt case signaling how serious cognizance the apex court has taken of the action of Justice Karnan.
Justice Karnan was sentenced to six years in jail, facing a contempt case after he accused 20 judges of the high judiciary including those currently serving in the Supreme Court of corruption.
The Supreme Court has refused to entertain his plea for interim bail and suspension of the six-month sentence awarded to him.
Justice Karnan wrote letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking appropriate action against all the judges named by him. Justice Karnan has never produced evidence to back his allegations.
Justice Karnan was appointed a judge in the Madras High Court in 2009 by the collegium headed by the then Chief Justice of India KG Balakrishnan. His appointment was made on the recommendation of the then Chief Justice of Madras High Court AK Ganguly.
In 2011, Justice Karnan, who is from the dalit community, caused a huge controversy when he called a press conference in Chennai to accuse one of his fellow judges of caste discrimination.
In 2015, Justice Karnan initiated a suo motu contempt proceeding against the then Chief Justice of Madras High Court Sanjay Kishan Kaul, accusing him of harassing him for being a Dalit.
In another incident, Justice Karnan had stormed into a courtroom in the Madras High Court hearing a case of judicial appointment. Justice Karnan demanded that he be allowed to hear the case.
In February 2016, Justice Karnan again launched a tirade against Justice Kaul accusing him of corruption.
Justice Karnan responded to the development by ordering stay on the apex court order of his transfer. The matter was heard by a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, which lifted the stay on his transfer.
Justice Karnan retaliated by passing an order to register case under the SC/SC atrocities law against the two Supreme Court judges for lifting the ban.
The apex court threatened to initiate a contempt case against him if he refused to follow its direction. Finally, the then Chief Justice of India TS Thakur had a closed-door meeting with Justice Karnan following which he agreed to move to the Calcutta High Court.
In 2017, with the hearing for the contempt case in progress, Justice Karnan declined to undergo a medical examination by a four-member medical team from a government hospital here, saying he is "quite normal and has a stable mind".
Later, Justice Karnan agreed to take up the medical examination and cleared it. The judge then retired from being a judge at the Calcutta High Court, while absconding in the contempt case.
After the judgement by the seven-member bench of the Supreme Court to be sentenced to six years in jail, Justice Karnan was on the run for nearly a month before finally being arrested in Coimbatore.