Justice Arun Mishra, who suffered collateral damage in two recent controversies concerning the Supreme Court, on Wednesday lashed out at advocates who, he said, were targeting apex court judges within the court as well as on TV debates, thereby “killing the institution”.
Justice Mishra’s comments, his first reference to the recent controversies around the top court, came when he was hearing a petition by the Medical Council of India against a Kerala government ordinance that allowed two medical colleges to admit students despite a Supreme Court order to the contrary.
In January, Justice Mishra found himself to be collateral damage when four senior judges held a press conference in January to speak out against the alleged arbitrary allocation of cases by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dipak Misra. They claimed that sensitive matters were being allocated to junior judges.
When asked whether the marking of a petition seeking an independent enquiry into special judge BH Loya’s death to a bench headed by Mishra prompted them to come out in the open, one of the four answered in the affirmative.
Although Justice Misra had heard the petition on the first date, it was later withdrawn from his bench and transferred to a three-judge bench led by the CJI that eventually ruled out foul play in judge Loya’s death and passed scathing remarks against the petitioner’s lawyers for misusing the public interest litigation (PIL) platform.
Soon after the January press conference, Justice Mishra broke down at an informal tea meeting of SC judges, saying he had been humiliated by senior colleagues, whose actions questioned his integrity. Later, at a talk at the Harvard Club of India, Justice J Chelameswar, one of the four judges who held the press conference, clarified that the judge Loya case was not the trigger for the public airing of grievances. Justice Mishra has often joked in the court about being called a “junior judge”.
On Wednesday, Justice Mishra vented his ire at senior advocates when they kept persisting with their arguments without giving an opportunity to the judges to speak. Each lawyer wanted to be heard out of turn.
“No one is spared… you are attacking all… targeting all. With one arrow, you want to kill everyone,” Justice Mishra said.
He was critical of lawyers participating in panel discussion on TV channels. “They discuss court proceedings on TV. We are abused like anything,” the judge said.
“You are killing this institution every day. Lawyers will survive only if this institution survives,” the judge warned.
Senior advocate Vikas Singh, who was present in the court on behalf of MCI, said he supported Justice Mishra’s view. “An institution cannot be maligned the way it is happening. It’s not in the interest of the country. Even if someone has to be critical, he or she must weigh the consequences before speaking anything,” Singh, who is also president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, said.
An upset Justice Mishra did not entertain a clarification application moved in the medical admission matter. The court has already stayed the Kerala government’s ordinance.