Madras High Court judge C S Karnan, who on Wednesday stormed a courtroom and criticised the selection of new judges, had brushes with controversy in the past as well.
As early as in November 2011, he created a flutter by alleging that fellow judges had humiliated him. He said Dalit judges were targeted and their reputation tarnished whenever they asserted their self-respect. He claimed that four-five HC judges had humiliated him on the basis of caste.
Judge Karnan set a precedent at that point in time by addressing a crowded press conference at his chambers in the high court, where he said he was facing humiliation and embarrassment since April 2009. He also was the first sitting judge in India to lodge a complaint of caste bias with the National Commission for SC/ST. “Some judges are very narrow-minded; they seek to dominate Dalit judges,” Karnan said.
He claimed he suffered in silence for close to two years, as he wanted to safeguard the dignity of the institution. “I was forced to approach the national forum for SCs only after the atrocities crossed limits.” Several other Dalit judges in the subordinate judiciary face similar ordeal, he said and added that “it’s a black mark on judiciary.”
Citing a few instances, Judge Karnan said a judge deliberately rubbed his shoes against him and then trampled a card carrying his name at a function. “The judge, sitting cross-legged next to me, touched me with his shoes deliberately and then said sorry. Two other judges were watching and smiling,” he alleged.
Karnan, 59, hails from Virudhachalam. He completed his schooling in his hometown before moving to Chennai where he received his law degree. He got enrolled on April 11, 1984, and was appointed additional judge of the Madras High Court on March 31, 2009.
On June 17 last, he delivered a judgment that had far reaching consequences. He held that rituals in a wedlock such as tying a thali or even registering it are only to comply with each other’s religious customs and the same will not stand legal scrutiny unless it was sexually consummated. Following criticism, a couple of days later, Judge Karnan issued an unusual statement, which was a gag order. He called for a holistic viewing of his judgment and asked people not to make adverse comments.