SC Bar association condemns Justice Mishra’s open praise of PM

Justice Mishra had hailed the “versatile genius” of Mr. Modi to “think globally and act locally”.

Updated - November 28, 2021 11:25 am IST

Published - February 26, 2020 05:14 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Justice Arun Mishra.

Justice Arun Mishra.

The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), in a resolution passed on Wednesday, strongly condemned senior Supreme Court judge Justice Arun Mishra's praise of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at an international judicial conference last week. Such statements “reflect poorly on the independence of the judiciary”, it said.

Justice Mishra had hailed the “ versatile genius ” of Mr. Modi to “think globally and act locally” while delivering the vote of thanks at the inaugural session of the conference. Mr. Modi was present on the dais along with Chief Justice of India Sharad A. Bobde. Judges from the Supreme Court, high courts, retired judges and judges from over 20 nations who had come to participate in the conference were in attendance at the time. Justice Mishra hailed Mr. Modi as an “internationally acclaimed visionary”.

“The SCBA believes that any such statement reflects poorly on the independence of the judiciary and so calls upon the Honourable Judges not to make any statements in future nor show any proximity or closeness to the Executive, including Higher Functionaries,” an SCBA statement said. However, its resolution was not unanimous.

The Supreme Court lawyers’ body, led by president and senior advocate Dushyant Dave, said it “believes that the independence of judiciary is the basic structure of the Constitution of India and that such independence be preserved in letter and spirit”. The SCBA expressed a “deep sense of anguish and concern” at Justice Mishra’s remarks made during the vote of thanks.

Bar Council of India chairperson, senior advocate Manan Kumar Mishra, however, reacted that "Justice Mishra's speech was in the capacity of a host and he used best of words for all the guests who graced the occasion. He was not holding a court at that time. The Prime Minister and Union Law Minister were the chief guest and guest of honour [respectively] of that function. I myself was present in that function, but I did not find anything wrong in Mr. Mishra’s speech".

BAI statement

However, the concern among lawyers was not restricted to the SCBA. The Bar Association of India (BAI) had also issued a formal statement to convey its concern and dismay over the “effusive terms of praise and adulation” used by Justice Mishra for Mr. Modi. It said Justice Mishra’s words went “beyond the terms of formal courtesy extended during a vote of thanks address”.

The BAI, a federation representing lawyers from the Supreme Court Bar to the local courts, law societies and firms across the country, said it was the “foundational obligation [of judges] to maintain a discreet and dignified distance from the Executive branch of the government”.

The BAI statement said, “Such an act serves to dilute the perception of impartiality and independence and diminishes the confidence of general public as judges of Supreme Court are expected to decide cases against the executive branch while upholding constitutional principles and the Rule of Law as paramount”.

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