NEW DELHI: Evoking controversies in the bar and solving many a problem for judges characterised his over six-year tenure in the Supreme Court but Justice Arun Mishra‘s wish for a quiet send off on his last day as SC judge was belied by attorney general K K Venugopal and bar association president Dushyant Dave.
As per tradition, he shared the dais with CJI S A Bobde on Wednesday after a tiring few months of writing voluminous judgments on weighty issues — daughters having equal coparcenary right in ancestral property, Amrapali case, punishing advocate Prashant Bhushan for contempt and settling complex payment issues relating to AGR dues of telecom companies. Ironically, this was the first and last time Justice Mishra and Justice Bobde were on the same bench.
As soon as the bench finished its judicial business, senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi and solicitor general Tushar Mehta wished Justice Mishra a happy retired life. But Venugopal began from where he left his arguments in the Bhushan case. “I would have been happy if no punishment was given. But the judgment of the bench headed by Justice Mishra elaborately laid down the law on contempt of court and it will be debated for a long time,” the AG said.
When his turn to speak came last, Justice Mishra sought pardon from all advocates if he had hurt them in any manner. He said his judgments were always dictated by his conscience. “I have always tried to do what is correct and best. I have not decided a single case keeping my conscience locked up. You can criticise my judgments but do not attribute a motive,” he said. He had just begun to respond to the AG on the Bhushan judgment when CJI Bobde stopped him by saying, “zyada mat bolo ab (don’t get into it now)”.
The AG said he had excellent personal relations with this “extremely hardworking judge” who was “firm and unshakable”, deserving the epithet “iron judge”. Dave was seen on the screen during the virtual farewell but could not be heard. He later complained that he was deliberately muted in the video-conferencing by the registry. In a letter to the CJI, he called this a “game plan” to prevent him from speaking on the occasion “fearing that I might say something unpleasant”, even though he never had any such intention.
Dave said, “I must confess, the SC has come to such a level where judges are afraid of the bar. Please remember, judges come and go but we the bar remain constant.” Saddened by the events, he said, “I will never again participate in any function organised by the Supreme Court till my term (as president of SCBA) is over in December.”
CJI Bobde paid glowing accolades to Justice Mishra by referring to him as a “beacon of life, courage and fortitude in the face of adversity”. He said Justice Mishra had bravely fought many difficult situations, both as a judge and in his personal life with “many health issues”.
“I don’t know of anyone who faced so much adversity and yet carried on so bravely. You will leave behind a legacy of hard work, erudition, fortitude and excellent relations you shared with all colleagues. You have so many firsts and given so many important judgments,” he added.
Justice Mishra was the go to man for judges when they were in trouble with colleagues. At one point, then CJI J S Khehar had bypassed Justice J Chelameswar and extended the five-member collegium to the sixth most senior judge. Justice Chelameswar sought the good offices of Justice Mishra to get back into the collegium.
Strangely, it was Justice Chelameswar who led a rebellion of four seniormost judges against then CJI Dipak Misra for allocation of the petition on judicial officer B H Loya’s death to a bench headed by Justice Mishra and who recused from the case. Again, it was Justice Mishra who played a key role in restoring normalcy behind the courtrooms among colleagues.
When then CJI Ranjan Gogoi faced sexual harassment charges, it was Justice Mishra who presided over the bench after CJI Gogoi gave vent to his anguish over the manner in which a “lobby” was using a court assistant to defame him and destabilise the judiciary. SC judges will lose a colleague who stood by them through thick and thin.


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