Two days after he warned a senior lawyer that he would initiate contempt proceedings against him, Justice Arun Mishra Thursday apologised to
members of the Bar, saying he was ready for even a “dandvat pranam” (lying fully prostrate on the floor), and that he has “lived and will die for the Bar”.
Justice Mishra’s apology came when a battery of senior advocates sat in his court before the judges assembled and sought to intervene in connection with the heated exchange between Justice Mishra and senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan during a hearing on interpretation of provisions of the 2013 Land Acquisition Act.
Responding to concerns expressed by senior lawyers — those present included Kapil Sibal, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Mukul Rohatgi, Dushyant Dave, Vikas Singh, Supreme Court Bar Association president Rakesh Khanna and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta — that the Bar feared to appear before him, Justice Mishra offered an apology and assured them he had no animosity against the Bar.
“If I have hurt anyone, then I apologise three times and even a hundred times… even a dandvat pranam.” On Wednesday, the Supreme Court Advocates-On-Record Association had passed a resolution expressing concern against Justice Mishra’s remarks threatening Sankaranarayanan with initiation of contempt proceedings.
“There is tremendous pressure on the court… we hear so many cases. I never consider anyone senior or junior,” Justice Mishra said, adding that he did not intend to make the remarks against Sankaranarayanan — the senior advocate was not present in the court room Thursday.
“That (an apology) is not required, my Lord. All is well that ends well,” Sibal said. He was the first among the senior advocates to speak as the judges walked in. “We have been at the Bar for 30-40 years. Most judges stay for not more than seven years. My request is that the dialogue between the Bar and Bench must be courteous. We are only here to convey that and no explanation is required.”
Justice Mishra also said: “Humbleness of a judge is not his weakness. There is scope for improvement for lawyers also. The court is not being addressed properly and we are attacked.”
Rohatgi said lawyers feared to appear before Justice Mishra. “I am not saying whether the fear is right or wrong but young lawyers feel that they are not able to argue in your court and that affects our work,” he said.
“This is not about one individual. We asked him but he told us not to mention anything on his behalf,” Singhvi said of Sankaranarayanan.
Justice Mishra said Sankaranarayanan argued “beautifully” but “disrespectfully”. “He started reading and made comments on judges. We requested him not to make comments on unrelated matters but he continued,” he said.
He also said that Sankaranarayan did not answer the call of the judges to return and conclude his arguments after he left the court. “Is it fair? He is showing that the judges unfairly stopped him from arguing, which is not the truth,” he said.
“I have very pro-Bar judge image. I have lived and will die for the Bar. I am not egoistic,” Justice Mishra said, adding that the Bar has given him more respect than the judiciary. He also referred to his role in resolving a month-long strike by lawyers in Rajasthan High Court in 2010. Justice Mishra was then the Chief Justice of the High Court.