Unreasonable Person of the Week

Justice CS Karnan

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For staying an order transferring him to another court

There’s a basic tenet in law that requires judges to not hear cases that involve a family member. The reasons are obvious—your judgment may be clouded. But Madras High Court judge Justice CS Karnan did something even more unusual by staying the proposal of his own transfer to the Calcutta High Court by the Chief Justice of India. He issued a suo motu judicial order that stayed his transfer, forcing the Supreme Court to put a freeze on his functions as a judge.

According to media reports, the judge has alleged that he was being targeted for being a Dalit, and that he would direct the Chennai Commissioner of Police to register cases against the apex court judges under the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. He also said that he doesn’t know why he’s being transferred and has asked Chief Justice TS Thakur to file a written statement through a subordinate to explain himself. Justice JS Khehar, a member of the Supreme Court Collegium which met on 11 February to decide on transfers of High Court judges, including Justice Karnan’s, said it is for the High Court judge to state his case against the transfer before the apex court, if he wants to. All this is unprecedented and does little good for the Judiciary’s overall image.