Differences seem to have appeared among the top office bearers in the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) and other lawyers’ bodies – Bar Council of India and Bar Association of India – on Wednesday over the stand taken by it on a 'resolution' concerning statements made by Justice Arun Mishra about Prime Minister Narendra Modi at International Judicial Conference-2020 last week.
Shortly after SCBA President Dushyant Dave issued a 'resolution', allegedly signed by several members of the lawyers' body expressing anguish and concern over the statements of Justice Mishra, the general secretary Ashok Arora of the association claimed that "no resolution has been passed" as he has not signed the statement released to the media.
Arora said, "There was no executive council or general body meeting of the Association. The President has taken an arbitrary dictatorial and irresponsible stand. He cannot speak on behalf of SCBA without calling general body meeting or meeting of the executive council on such a serious issue".
Arora told PTI that all the communication to the media is to be sent through the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), who is general secretary of the SCBA.
"It is not a resolution in the eyes of law because it was not signed by me," he said, adding that Dave has made available to media a circular which contained suggestions of only six to seven members.
What Justice Mishra said
On February 22, Justice Mishra praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi and termed him as an "internationally acclaimed visionary" and a "versatile genius, who thinks globally and acts locally".
Complimenting the PM and Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad for doing away with 1,500 obsolete laws, Justice Mishra said India is a responsible and most friendly member of the international community under the "stewardship" of Modi.
Delivering the vote of thanks at the inaugural function of the International Judicial Conference 2020 - 'Judiciary and the Changing World' at the Supreme Court, he said challenges faced by the judiciary at the national and international levels are common and judiciary has a "significant role" in the ever-changing world.
"Dignified human existence is our prime concern. We thank the versatile genius, who thinks globally and acts locally, Shri Narendra Modi, for his inspiring speech which would act as a catalyst in initiating the deliberations and setting the agenda for the conference," Justice Mishra, who is third in seniority in the apex court, said while expressing gratitude to the PM for inaugurating the conference.
He said India is the biggest democracy in the world and "people wonder how this democracy is functioning so successfully".
"India is a responsible and most friendly member of the international community under the stewardship of internationally acclaimed visionary Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi," he said.
In a communication sent to the media, the SCBA had said, it has taken note "with deep sense of anguish and concern", the statement made by Justice Mishra.
"The SCBA expresses its strong reservations of the aforesaid statement and condemns the same strongly. The SCBA believes that the independence of the judiciary is the basic structure under the Constitution of India and that such independence be preserved in letter and spirit," the SCBA statement had said.
It said that SCBA believes that any such statements reflect "poorly on the independence of the judiciary and so calls upon the judges not to make statements in future nor show any proximity or closeness to the executive including higher functionaries".
The lawyers' body of the apex court said, "The SCBA also believes that such proximity and familiarity may impact the decision-making process by the judges and may give rise to justifiable doubts in the minds of the litigants about the outcome".
It said that the association reaffirms its faith in the Constitution of India and independence of the judiciary and calls upon all concerned in the administration of justice to work for the same in letter and spirit.
Bar Association of India also criticises Justice Mishra
Another body, The Bar Association of India, also expressed concern and dismay over the use of "effusive terms of praise and adulation" by Justice Mishra for Modi, saying such a statement impinges upon the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.
BAI was the first to make the critical statement on the issue and later the SCBA issued the communication on the matter which was shortly opposed by Arora.
BAI President Lalit Bhasin, who had also issued a statement on Tuesday that such act diminishes the confidence of the public as the judges of the apex court, spoke to PTI on Wednesday and said the Supreme Court deals with the matters concerning government policies and actions and its judge making laudable references about the Prime Minister sends a wrong message to the public.
Bar Council of India’s reaction
The criticism of Justice Mishra by the SCBA did not go down well with the apex bar body, Bar Council of India (BCI) either.
BCI Chairperson Manan Kumar Mishra on Wednesday termed as "myopic mindset" the criticism of Supreme Court judge Justice Arun Mishra by the SCBA for his remarks praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 'International Judicial Conference' held last week.
"Dushyant Dave (SCBA President) by publishing an article about Justice Mishra, tried to drag Justice Mishra in an undesirable and unsavoury controversy over his speech at the international judicial conference 2020, held recently at the Supreme Court," the BCI chairperson said in a statement.
Terming the criticism of Justice Mishra as an act of "myopic mindset", he said that "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 SCBA President knows that "a conscientious sitting judge of Supreme Court would never enter into a war of words with him on his overreaction to the speech delivered at the conference", the BCI chairperson said.
He said that Justice Mishra had proposed a vote of thanks at the conference inaugurated by the Prime Minister and attended by a host of Judges and jurists from India and other countries.
"Dave has looked at Justice Mishra's speech with a narrow and myopic mindset to scandalise it knowing fully well that Justice Mishra being a sitting judge of Supreme Court and bound by norms of discipline a judge is required to follow, cannot join issue with him over his statement," he said.