MUMBAI: The Bombay Bar Association, one of the oldest body of lawyers, on Thursday passed a resolution to “deprecate” the “conduct of a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India” for “making obsequious remarks about the head of the executive” which the association believes “is both improper and unnecessary.”
The resolution was passed by a majority vote during a meeting requisitioned by senior counsel Navroz Seervai and many other lawyers.
It said that “at the inaugural ceremony of the International Judicial Conference on February 22, 2020, Justice Arun Mishra, while delivering the vote of thanks, remarked that “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 Modi is a “versatile genius, who thinks globally and acts locally” and thanked him “for providing us inspiring thoughts which would act as a catalyst in initiating the deliberations, and setting the agenda for the Conference.”
As part of the very same speech giving a vote of thanks, Justice Arun Mishra had observed that “All these three organs of the state have to work independently but in tandem to make the democracy successful, to visualise and for effective implementation of constitutional aspirations and its values.”
At the meeting, while several leading counsel including Aspi Chinoy, Janak Dwarkadas and Iqbal Chagla supported the resolution, four members opposed it and expressed reservations.
One of them said that the Judge was delivering the “vote of thanks” and a Central government panel counsel Purnima Awasthi questioned the lack of any such resolution when judges in the past had praised or been critical of politicians.
Another advocate Rakesh Kumar questioned the resolution asking how could a bar scuttle a Judge’s right to speech and added that Justice Mishra praised not any politician but the head of the executive before an international audience.
One lawyer also said that it was his right to freedom of speech and cited a SC judgment on “dissent” being an integral part and a “safety valve of democracy.”
Speaking in favour of the resolution, Dwarkadas said that if one were a litigant in the SC and fighting the government, how would it feel “appearing before the judge.”
“This Association believes that it is particularly regrettable that such remarks were made at an event such as the International Judiciary Conference, in the presence of senior cabinet ministers such as the law minister, former and current judges of the Supreme Court of India and visiting members of the international legal community,” the resolution approved by a majority of the 130-odd lawyers said.
It also said, “As acknowledged by Justice Arun Mishra himself in his vote of thanks, the independent functioning of the judiciary is the touchstone of democracy. This association believes that remarks such as those made by Justice Arun Mishra in respect of Prime Minister Narendra Modi strike at the foundation of the independence of the judiciary. Given that the Executive is frequently a litigant, it is imperative that the Judiciary is and appears to be objective in its approach to the members of the Executive, both within and outside the courtroom.”
It also said, “This Association condemns such speech as it shakes the confidence of the members of the legal profession and the public at large in the independence and integrity of the higher judiciary” and added, that it was “ in agreement with various members of the legal community in India” who have already expressed their dismay and condemnation.