NEW DELHI: Justice Arun Mishra retired from the Supreme Court after six years stint on Wednesday and attended the last day proceedings by sharing the ceremonial bench with Chief Justice of India (CJI) S A Bobde — a long-standing tradition of the court.
CJI Bobde described Mishra as a beacon of courage, one who was leaving behind a legacy of hard work, erudition, great courage and fortitude. He commended Mishra for the courage he displayed, even in tough times.
The CJI, who incidentally shared the bench with Justice Mishra for the first and the last time in the top court, praised the retiring judge by terming him as a "beacon of light", "beacon of courage" and "beacon of fortitude" even in the face of all adversities.
"Justice Mishra is leaving behind a legacy of hard work, erudition, great courage and fortitude", the CJI said.
“It has been a privilege to have him as a colleague. It is a peculiar thing that this is the first time I am sitting with him in the court, and this happens to be his last time. You have been a beacon of courage and fortitude in discharging your duties,” the CJI told justice Mishra.
Justice Bobde said "I wish you Justice Mishra a very happy joyous and prosperous life ahead and I hope you remain in touch with us and we certainly endeavour to do that," Justice Bobde said and added that he was privileged to have a worked with Justice Mishra,.
"I don't know many people who have carried out work so bravely despite so many difficulties," the CJI said.
In his farewell speech, Justice Mishra said he dealt with every case with his conscience and implored not to give colour to his judgments.
“My judgments may be analysed but don’t give this colour or that colour to them,” he said during the virtual send-off.
Justice Mishra added that there was not a single case he decided in which he felt he was doing something that wasn’t just and proper.
The last day of Justice Mishra, who delivered many key judgements including the AGR dues case granting 10 years time to telcos and the imposition of one rupees fine on lawyer Prashant Bhushan for contempt of court, has had the share of controversy as well.
He also made a brief mention about the Prashant Bhushan contempt case, saying he did not want to punish anyone but had to do so in this case.
Attorney General K K Venugopal on Wednesday said he has not seen a Supreme Court judge so firm and unshakeable as Mishra and described him as an "iron judge" who delivered many significant judgments.
Justice Mishra, sharing the ceremonial bench on his last day as an apex court judge with Chief Justice S A Bobde, bid farewell to the bar and the judges, saying he dealt cases with "conscience" and took every decision with "conviction".
Addressing the court through video conferencing, the outgoing judge urged the legal fraternity to "analyse (his) every judgment but do not give them this colour or that colour."
Venugopal, speaking at the occasion, said, "It is disappointing that this farewell is done through video conferencing. We are hoping he will be in Delhi, after all, he is only 65 years of age."
"I have had a good relationship with Justice Mishra for the last 30 years. He is the iron judge of the Supreme Court. We will miss him in Supreme Court and we wish him good health."
The top law officer began his address by saying that Justice Mishra deserved a physical farewell with several advocates of being physically present.
"I have not seen in the Supreme Court a judge so firm and unshakeable. I would describe him as an iron judge of the Supreme Court," he said.
He also referred to the Prashant Bhushan contempt case and said "Personally, I would have been happy if no punishment was imposed."
The judgment in the contempt case has laid down the law which will be a subject matter of debate, he said.
Lawyers including former Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi also wished Justice Mishra who thanked them and colleague judges by saying that he always tried to borrow the "weapon of power given" from Bar and fellow judges.
"All of you were the power behind whatever I have done. Have learnt so much from the members of the Bar. So many branches of law I have learnt from the Bar members," he said.
He said, "sometimes I have been very harsh in my conduct directly or indirectly. Nobody should feel hurt. If I have hurt anybody then please pardon me, pardon me, pardon me."
Shivaji Jadhav, President of Supreme Court Advocates on Record Association (SCAORA) read out the brief outline of Justice Mishra's career especially his judicial career.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and few other bar leaders also attended it.
Earlier on August 30, Justice Mishra had declined farewell invitations of bar bodies - the Supreme Court Bar Association and the Confederation of Indian Bar - citing "severe situation and sufferings the world over" on account of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Justice Mishra had become an apex court judge on July 7, 2014.
Justice Mishra's key verdicts
From rejecting the plea seeking SIT probe into the alleged bribery allegations against high functionaries in the Sahara-Birla diaries case to convicting activist-lawyer Prashant Bhushan in a contempt case, Justice Arun Mishra's tenure as a Supreme Court judge would be remembered for passing several key verdicts.
Justice Mishra, who demitted office on Wednesday after over six years as apex court judge, also had his share of controversies, including the one when a section of bar criticised him for praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi during an event.
Another controversy had erupted over the listing of a plea seeking independent probe into the death of a special CBI judge B H Loya before a bench headed by him and the issue shot into limelight when four setting most senior judges of the apex court held an unprecedented press conference in January 2018.
Elevated to the Supreme Court as a judge on July 7, 2014, Justice Mishra, who as per his profile uploaded in the apex court website had decided around 97,000 cases as a judge of high courts of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Calcutta, dealt with several high profile cases and rendered judgements and orders having far reaching impact.
Some of the key verdicts rendered by Justice Mishra include the January 2017 order wherein a two-judge bench headed by him dismissed a plea seeking setting up of a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the alleged incriminating material seized in the raids conducted on the Birla and Sahara Group of companies.
Days before his retirement, Justice Mishra-led bench imposed a nominal fine of Re 1 on Bhushan who was convicted in a criminal contempt case for his two tweets against the judiciary.
Besides penning several verdicts and orders on issues ranging from protecting environment, interest of hassled home buyers and issues related to the telecom sector, Justice Mishra's tenure would also be remembered for the controversies surrounding him.
Justice Mishra's address during the inaugural function of International Judicial Conference 2020 - 'Judiciary and the Changing World' at the Supreme Court, in which he had praised Modi, had come under criticism from some sections of the bar.
During his address, he had termed Modi as an "internationally acclaimed visionary" and a "versatile genius, who thinks globally and acts locally".
He delivered orders and verdicts in a matter which had far reaching impact on the telecom sector.
A day before his retirement, a bench headed by Justice Mishra delivered an important judgement giving 10 years to telecom firms to pay over Rs 93,000 crore of Adjusted Gross Revenue (AGR) related dues to the government.
The last verdict penned by him as an apex court judge was related to the ancient Mahakaleshwar Temple in Ujjain.
The verdict, while taking note of the deterioration and erosion of Shivalingam at the Mahakaleshwar Temple, directed that devotees should do no rubbing of the lingam.
Justice Mishra was also a part of bench which had held an extraordinary hearing on a Saturday in April last year in a matter pertaining to allegations of sexual harassment against the then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
Later, a three-member In-House Inquiry Committee of the apex court found no substance" in the allegations of sexual harassment levelled against Justice Gogoi, now a Rajya Sabha member, by a former woman employee of the top court.
Controversy had also erupted over listing of a plea, seeking an independent probe into the death of special CBI judge B H Loya who was hearing the high-profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case, before a bench headed by Justice Mishra.
The listing of this plea before Justice Mishra-led bench came into limelight when four sitting senior-most judges of the Supreme Court had held an unprecedented press conference on January 12, 2018 and said that situation in the apex court was "not in order" and many "less than desirable" things have taken place.
Later, the bench led by Justice Mishra said that the plea be listed before an "appropriate bench" of the top court.
A bench headed by Justice Mishra dealt with the plight of several hassled home buyers of Amrapali Group and passed several orders to protect the interest of investors.
The apex court in its July 23 last year verdict had cracked its whip on errant builders for breaching the trust reposed by home buyers and ordered cancellation of registration of Amrapali Group under real estate law RERA, and ousted it from prime properties in the NCR by nixing the land leases.
As per Justice Mishra's profile uploaded on the apex court website, he was elected as the youngest Chairman of the Bar Council of India (1998-99) and he had worked for improvement of legal education among others.
He was appointed as a judge of the Madhya Pradesh High Court on October 25, 1999 and was later appointed as the Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court on November 26, 2010.
He was later appointed as the Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court on December 14, 2012.
(With PTI Inputs)