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Judge apologises as lawyers raise concern after row Justice Mishra had warned an advocate of contempt

December 06, 2019 05:07 AM


Judge apologises as lawyers raise concern
after row Justice Mishra had warned an advocate of contempt

Murali Krishnan

New Delhi : Supreme Court judge Justice Arun Mishra offered an apology in court on Thursday, after he sparked a storm by threatening contempt of court action against senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, prompting expressions of concern by lawyers about the atmosphere in his courtroom.

“If I have hurt someone, I am ready to apologise not once but hundred times,” said justice Mishra after senior advocates including Kapil Sibal, Dushyant Dave, Mukul Rohatgi and AM Singhvi gathered in his court and told the judge that lawyers, particularly young lawyers, had qualms about arguing cases before him. On Tuesday, justice Mishra, heading a five-judge Constitution bench hearing land acquisition cases, threatened contempt of court action against Sankaranarayanan.

The judge had a disagreement with Sankaranarayanan who, he said, was repeating some arguments already made by other lawyers appearing in the matter. According to people aware of the development, when Sankaranarayanan insisted on completing some submissions before getting to his main argument, justice Mishra said his act could amount to contempt of court. Sankaranarayanan exited the court following the judge’s remark.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association, which groups lawyers eligible to file cases in the Supreme Court, passed a resolution expressing their concern over the incident and urged the judge to “be a little bit more patient in dealing with lawyers”.

Senior advocates gathered in court room 3 of the Supreme Court on Thursday much before 10.30 am, the time when the court usually assembles for hearings

As soon as the bench comprising justices Arun Mishra and MR Shah assembled, senior counsel Sibal told the court that the lawyers wished to convey to the court “something about courtesy and patience.”

Sibal said that many senior advocates, some of whom have been practising in the Supreme Court for over 40 years, know the traditions of the bar well while judges who come to the apex court stay only for 5 to 7 years before they retire. The key to an affable relationship is that dialogue between the bench and bar should be courteous, Sibal said.

Senior advocate Dave urged the judge to overlook the mistakes of young lawyers, stating that judges should encourage them and help build the bar. Senior counsel Rohatgi told the court that there was an impression that the atmosphere in justice Mishra’s court was not conducive for junior lawyers.

“Many of them are fearful. Whether the fear is right or wrong we don’t know but cordiality should remain”, said Rohatgi.

Responding to the senior advocates, justice Mishra said he harboured no personal ill will against any lawyer and various factors including enormous pressure on the judges caused by the workload might sometimes lead to such remarks by him. He clarified that he never intended to act on his remarks on contempt proceedings against l Sankaranarayanan . “I have not drawn any contempt against any lawyer. Whatever I have said is not what I meant. We have to handle many cases and I might have said something due to pressure.”He then proceeded to apologise while maintaining that he has huge respect for the

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