New Delhi: In unusual words of praise from one branch of government to the other, Supreme Court judge Justice Arun Mishra on Saturday heaped praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, hailing him by name as an “internationally acclaimed visionary” and a “versatile genius, who thinks globally and acts locally”.
Justice Mishra, who is third in seniority in the apex court, also lauded Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for doing away with 1,500 obsolete laws and said that India was a responsible and friendly member of the international community under the “stewardship” of Modi.
His remarks came as he was delivering the vote of thanks at the inaugural function of the International Judicial Conference 2020 – ‘Judiciary and the Changing World’ at the Supreme Court. Judges from over 20 countries are said to be attending the conference. Justice Mishra said that the challenges faced by the judiciary at the national and international levels are common and that the judiciary had a “significant role” in the ever-changing world.
“Dignified human existence is our prime concern. We thank the versatile genius, who thinks globally and acts locally, Shri Narendra Modi, for his inspiring speech which would act as a catalyst in initiating the deliberations and setting the agenda for the conference,” Justice Mishra said while expressing gratitude towards the PM for inaugurating the conference.
He said India was the biggest democracy in the world and “people wonder how this democracy is functioning so successfully”.
“India is a responsible and most friendly member of the international community under the stewardship of internationally acclaimed visionary Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi,” he added. “India is committed to constitutional obligations and dedicated to a peaceful and secure world, free from terrorism. In the process of development, preservation of environment is considered supreme,” he said.
Justice Mishra also emphasised on the need to strengthen the judicial system “not only for the present but also for future.”
“To strengthen judicial system is the call of the day as it is the backbone of democracy whereas legislature is the heart and executive is the brain. All these three organs of the state have to work independently but in tandem to make democracy successful…”.
He also referred to the contribution of an independent and robust bar and said there is no denying the fact that “bar is the mother of judiciary”.
The Supreme Court judge also addressed concerns surrounding globalisation. “The sense of injustice and inequality being created by the same looms large on us,” he said, adding, “It has to be taken care of by all of us alike before it becomes lethal like coronavirus”.
Justice Mishra was, most recently, in the news for heading the three-judge Supreme Court bench that slammed telecom companies for non-compliance with its order to pay adjusted gross revenue of Rs 1.47 lakh crore to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT).
Justice Mishra was also embroiled in a controversy last year, when he refused to recuse himself from heading a constitution bench that would re-examine his own judgment on the grant of compensation under Section 24 of the land acquisition law of 2013.
In 2018, a bench headed by Justice Mishra had authored a majority judgment that was in conflict with a 2014 verdict of the Supreme Court.
A 2014 Supreme Court judgment by a bench led by Justice (retd) Lodha had delivered a verdict that held that land acquisition would be considered void if the compensation amount sue was not deposited in the landowner’s bank account or with the court in five years. A 2018 judgement on the same issue by Justice Mishra’s bench was in conflict with the 2014 verdict as it held that a landowner’s refusal to accept compensation in five years would not make the acquisition void.
Petitioners sought his recusal by saying that a judge could not sit in appeal against his own judgment. However, Justice Mishra accused the petitioners of leading a campaign to “malign” him.
While heading a five-judge constitution bench hearing land acquisition matters, Justice Mishra warned senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan of contempt while he was advancing his arguments. After Supreme Court lawyers requested him to be patient, the judge, while making it clear that he respected the bar more than any other judge, said that he was apologetic if anybody had felt aggrieved.
In August 2019, senior advocate Dushyant Dave wrote a letter to the then-CJI Ranjan Gogoi where he questioned why cases involving the Adani group were listed before Justice Mishra and wrote:
“The Chief Justice of India surprised the entire legal fraternity when he constituted benches for the summer vacation for 2019 which included, besides himself, Honourable Justice Mr. Arun Mishra from amongst the senior-most of the judges. This was surprising because generally, if never, senior judges did not sit on vacation benches. Whatever, may have been the justification, it has resulted in shocking outcomes in a few matters heard during the summer vacation.”
News channel CNN News18 later quoted Dave as having said, “Everyone knows Justice Arun Mishra has close relations with BJP and top politicians”.
In January 2018, after four top judges of the Supreme Court held an unprecedented press conference to protest the listing of sensitive cases before benches “of their preference”, the bench headed by Justices Arun Mishra and Mohan M. Shantanagoudar recused itself from hearing the case involving the mysterious death of special CBI Judge B.H. Loya, who had presided over the Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case
(With inputs from PTI)