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Indian Media Rode the Karnan Wave, While Foreign Media had Its Dig At the Indian Judiciary: SC Justifies Its Media Gag

LiveLaw Research Team
5 July 2017 4:17 PM GMT
Indian Media Rode the Karnan Wave, While Foreign Media had Its Dig At the Indian Judiciary: SC Justifies Its Media Gag
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Observing that Justice Karnan  shielded himself from actions, by trumpeting his position, as belonging to an under-privileged caste, the seven-Judge SC bench indicted  him for contempt thus:

“None of the allegations levelled by Justice Karnan were supported by any material. His allegations were malicious and defamatory, and pointedly by name, against many of the concerned Judges. He carried his insinuations to the public at large, in the first instance, by endorsing his letters carefully so as to widely circulate the contents of his communications, to the desired circles.”

“Indian Media Rode the Karnan Wave, While Foreign Media had Its Dig At the Indian Judiciary ”



The bench continued:

“The contents of the letters addressed by him contained scandalous material against Judges of High Courts and the Supreme Court. This correspondence was addressed to the highest constitutional authorities, in all three wings of governance – the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. His public utterances, turned the judicial system into a laughing stock. The local media, unmindful of the damage it was causing to the judicial institution, merrily rode the Karnan wave. Even the foreign media, had its dig at the Indian judiciary.”

Justifying the gag on the media, the bench said:

“In the background of the factual position summarized above, while disposing of the suo-motu contempt petition on 9.5.2017, we had directed, that no further statements issued by Shri Justice C.S. Karnan would be publicized. The instant restraint order, however, does not prevent or hinder any public debate on the matter, academic or otherwise. We have not restricted, the media in any manner, other than, to the limited extent expressed above. We hope and expect, that a meaningful debate, would lead to a wholesome understanding of the issue, from all possible perspectives.”



Reading together the two judgments, one authored by Chief Justice J.S.Khehar on behalf of the seven Judges including himself, and the other authored by Justice J.Chelameswar, on behalf of himself and Justice Ranjan Gogoi, it is clear that the seven-Judge bench found Justice Karnan guilty of contempt  on the grounds that he committed contempt in the face of the Court, and that he was also guilty of scandalising the Court, and interference in the administration of justice.

While Justice Khehar’s judgment explains how Justice Karnan committed contempt in the face of the Court, Justice Chelameswar explains how he was guilty of the two offences of scandalising and obstructing the administration of justice, through his post-notice conduct by issuing judicial orders against the seven Judges.

Other Highlights of the Judgment



  1. Justice Karnan wanted to apologise and seek closure of the contempt case against him by submitting a note to the bench on March 31, when he appeared the only time before the bench. This note was dated March 25, but the bench found his conduct inconsistent  with that note, which made it doubt whether he would be able to defend himself.  That was why it ordered his medical examination.

  2. Justice Karnan alleged in a communication dated March 14 to the Registrar General of the Calcutta High Court that the Supreme Court Advocate, Mathews J Nedumpara, met him on March 9 and persuaded him to sign an order issuing notice to the Chief Justice J.S.Khehar and Justice Dipak Misra, on the basis of the suicide note written by the former Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister, Kalikho Pul. Justice Karnan denied Nedumpara’s request and  directed his personal security officer to send Nedumpara out of his residence. (Paragraph 24 of Chief Justice Khehar’s judgment).

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