Reminding that the duty to maintain dignity and decorum of the court is also upon judges, the Supreme Court Advocates-On-Record Association on Wednesday passed a resolution against Justice Arun Mishra’s remarks warning senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan of contempt charges in court.
“Several members of the Bar have repeatedly been raising such grievance about unwanted treatment and personal remarks by Mr Justice Arun Mishra,” it noted.
The association requested justice Mishra to be a “little more patient in dealing with lawyers”.
Senior advocate and former ASG Vikas Singh also called on Supreme Court Bar Association to condemn Justice Mishra’s remarks “as a mark of protest towards protecting prestige of the Bar.” He wrote, “Terrorising lawyers under the threat of contempt and not allowing them to argue under that threat undermines the very fundamentals of justice delivery system.”
On Tuesday, the court witnessed a heated exchange between Justice Mishra and Sankarnarayanan when a five-judge Constitution bench was hearing on interpretations of the provisions of 2013 Land Acquisition Act.
After asking Sankarnarayanan multiple times to not repeat arguments made by other advocates, Justice Mishra warned him of contempt of court. “One more word and I will issue contempt against you and ensure you are convicted,” Justice Mishra said.
“Are you retorting? How dare you?” justice Mishra said, refusing to allow Sankarnarayanan more time to conclude his arguments. Sankarnarayanan closed his files and left, shortly before the court rose for lunch, without concluding his arguments.
“I walked away because I did not want to lower the dignity of court. I do not wish to add anything further,” Sankarnarayanan told The Indian Express.
The court’s daily order on Tuesday recorded that 14 lawyers, including Sankarnarayanan, were heard and the arguments remained “unconcluded”. Thirteen lawyers, including senior advocates Dushyant Dave and Nakul Dewan, were heard post-lunch.
On Wednesday, advocate Prashant Bhushan argued on behalf of a farmer’s association for over four hours. Before rising for lunch, Justice Mishra asked Bhushan to address the court again.
When Bhushan said he would address the court to the best of his abilities and chuckled, Justice Mishra asked whether his abilities were “a laughing matter”.
The court is hearing a clutch of cases related to the interpretation of Section 24 of Land Acquisition Act.
In 2018, then CJI Dipak Misra had referred the cases to a Constitution bench, as two benches delivered conflicting judgments. One of the orders was by a bench including Justice Arun Mishra.
Sankarnarayanan and senior advocate Shyam Divan had argued for his recusal from the Constitution bench, saying that there might be impropriety in him hearing it.
On October 24, the bench, also including Justices Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, Ravindra Bhat and M R Shah, ruled that Justice Mishra would continue.