Justice Deepak Misra – Significant legacy!by Opinion Express October 1, 2018 0 comments
CJI Dipak Misra retires on October 2. His tenure will certainly be one of the most talked about in Indian jurisprudence
India has had some controversial judges in the past, even some who have held the office of Chief Justice of India. But while allegations of all manner have been aired albeit in hushed tones in the corridors of the Supreme Court against many, they have in the main proven to be nothing more than bazaar gossip and have never stuck to any CJI. Allegations against the outgoing CJI Dipak Misra too have been made including by officers of the court who ought to have been more circumspect, not to mention the unprecedented press conference called by four of his senior-most colleagues including his designated successor Justice Ranjan Gogoi. Chief Justice Misra’s stewardship of the highest court in the land, however, has seen some of the most landmark judgments of the past 50 years being delivered and while history may not forget the controversies around his tenure, it is likely to relegate them to a footnote when assessing his very significant contribution to evolving jurisprudence in India.
The outgoing CJI in many ways oversaw a Supreme Court that appears to have vastly expanded its role. Few other top courts in democracies hear so many cases; indeed the Supreme Court of the US hears only around 70 matters in a year while the apex court in India deals with as many petitions in the course of a day. Members of both Bar and Bench also feel the apex court have gone too far in jettisoning the pyramidical structure of the Indian judiciary wherein the Supreme Court is supposed to be the forum of last appeal not the court of first resort as has been brought out in the Urban Naxals detention case. Other Constitutional experts believe that the top court has at times exceeded its brief and the battle between the judiciary and the executive is plaguing policy making in contemporary India. In fact, his detractors had launched a sotto voce campaign on the CJI’s alleged closeness to the current dispensation, conveniently eliding the fact that the very same Government delayed confirming judges despite their being passed by the Supreme Court collegium headed by him! All this is not to say, naturally, that these issues had their genesis in the outgoing CJI’s tenure but they certainly did come to the fore arguably like never before during his stint as the top judge of the country. With the CJI-designate Justice Gogoi thought to have a different style of inter-institutional working from the outgoing CJI, many expect the battles between the executive and the judiciary to become louder in the coming months. The bottom line, though, remains that each CJI has his own approach to these matters but crucially the integrity of none can be questioned. Chief Justice Misra’s legacy is intact. He will be remembered for passing vital judgements — on the right to privacy, the constitutionality of Aadhaar as well as allowing women to enter the Sabarimala shrine among others. Yes, more should have been done to revamp the Indian judicial system starting with the lower judiciary which has been hollowed out, unfortunately, by a combination of incompetence, lack of accountability and even corruption. A key enabler of vigilante justice, media trials and social media defamation is the collapse of the lower judiciary in dispensing timely justice unaffected by societal trends and focusing only on the evidence before it without caste, class or gender playing a role. As we thank the Chief for his helming of the one institution in India which is still the last hope for justice for millions and wish his successor the very best, these are the issues we humbly submit which need immediate attention.