The intriguing case of Justice Deepak Mishra

Justice Deepak Mishra is going to retire in some days. However his tenure has been full of landmark judgements and controversies. Justice Mishra has a tenure of 14 months at the supreme court and has been appointed as the 45th Chief Justice of India. Only 2 days are left in his tenure now. His last week as the chief justice has seen some remarkable and progressive judgements being given by the supreme court, which will stand out in the history of liberal democracy in India.But what really makes his tenure more spicy, is actually allegations against him of being protege of BJP and mismanaging the distribution of cases in the supreme court.

Remarkable Judgements :

  1. In a case on reservation in promotion, Justice Misra and Justice Dalveer Bhandari upheld the Allahabad High Court judgement that reservation in promotions can be provided only if there is sufficient data and evidence to justify the need. The bench rejected the UP government’s decision to provide reservation in promotion on the ground that it failed to furnish sufficient valid data.
  2. Justice Misra led the bench which rejected the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts convict Yakub Menon’s appeal to stop his execution.
  3. A bench led by justice Mishra upheld the death sentence of the culprits of the Nirbhaya case. This case is a milestone in the history of anti-rape law in India.
  4. It was a bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Misra that settled the 120 year old dispute over the Cauvery river, also called the Ganga of the South and considered to be the lifeline for Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The judgment laid down important principles to the effect that rivers are a national resource and not the property of any State and the sharing of waters must be on equitable basis and further placed the requirement of drinking water at the highest pedestal.
  5. In a historic unanimous ruling on Section 377 IPC, while presiding over a Constitution Bench, Chief Justice Misra partially struck down Section 377 of IPC citing it to be irrational, indefensible and manifestly arbitrary. Justice Misra observed quoting Goethe : “I am what I am, so take me as I am” and emphasised on the universal concepts of individuality, liberty and dignity of the individual, right to privacy, equality of rights and freedom of expression, and highlighted the constitutional principles of transformative constitutionalism and constitutional morality and the doctrines of progressive realisation and non-retrogression of rights. This judgement will go down as one of the most progressive and liberal decisions made in the history of Indian Jurisprudence.
  6. Justice Misra was part of the bench that ruled out Section 497 of the Indian Penal Code dealing with adultery. On 27 September 2018, Misra read the judgment that adultery will no longer be a criminal offence, but can serve as a reason for other civil issues, such as divorce.
  7. In a recent judgement, Justice Mishra headed the bench which allowed the entry of women in the Sabrimala Temple of Kerala. He said that every hindu has the right to visit the temple, and by the act of not allowing the entry if women, the temple authorities are creating a social segregation of women.

Controversies :

On 12 January 2018, four senior judges of the Supreme Court; Jasti Chelameshwar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph addressed a press conference criticizing Misra’s style of administration and about the allocation of cases. However, people close to Misra refuted these allegations] On 20 April 2018, seven opposition parties submitted a petition seeking impeachment of Dipak Misra to the Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, with signatures from seventy-one parliamentarians. This incident created a huge ruckus in the media, and ignited huge debates around the credibility of Justice Mishra on public platforms.

The opposition parties have also on many occasions raised voices against the works of Jutice Mishra.

However, whether he’ll be remembered as a progressive chief justice, whose tenure saw some of the most remarkable and progressive judgements in the history of Indian Judiciary; or he’ll be remembered as a tyrant and protege masquerading as the chief justice of India, that only time will tell.

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