The other side of the coin: Arun Mishra J on summoning of disabled litigant

Bar & Bench November 2 2017
Arun Mishra

Justice Arun Mishra had reportedly asked a physically challenged litigant to walk to the podium last week, causing an uproar on social media.

However, advocate Shivang Dubey, who was in the Supreme Court on October 31, witnessed a conversation between Justice Arun Mishra and a Senior Counsel in open court, wherein the judge expressed his unhappiness at the way the episode was reported.

Justice Mishra told the Senior lawyer that the case was in fact filed after a delay of more than four years and he was trying to do justice in the matter by summoning the petitioner to court.

Below is an account by advocate Shivang Dubey.

Day before yesterday, all appeared normal in Court No. 10 of the Supreme Court of India, with lawyers waiting for their cases to be called out. At about 11.30 am, I noticed Justice Arun Mishra addressing a Senior Counsel about his concern over lawyers taking to ‘social media’ to comment on judges.

What really caught my attention was that Justice Mishra was relying on an article published in a legal website, which I had read. Justice Mishra looked upset with the views of the author expressed in the article, regarding his conduct while dealing with a matter on-hand, arising out of a Motor Accidents claim. The author had criticized Justice Mishra for directing the personal presence of the petitioner before the Court.

When I had read the article, I was easily moved by it, like many others in the profession. I was convinced in my mind that courts should adopt a humanitarian approach when dealing with such cases.

However, what I heard from Justice Mishra reflected  the other side of the coin. Justice Mishra said that the objective behind summoning the petitioner was, in fact, to grant him justice. He said that the petitioner had filed his petition after a delay of 4 years (challenging the final judgment dated 6 November 2012 passed by Madhya Pradesh High Court). This was gross negligence on the part of petitioner in preferring the petition and that alone was sufficient to dismiss the petition.

But, Justice Mishra was not ready to dismiss the case on this ground alone. He wanted to go into the root of the matter, and apprise himself of the reason for delay. He said that after seeing the petitioner in the Court, he could make out that the matter requires deeper inquiry to meet the ends of justice. Therefore, he issued "notice" on the SLP, as well as on the application for condonation of delay.

At times we are in a hurry to criticize the judges and cast aspersions on their intentions and conduct. Many times, we forget that judges cannot defend themselves, on social media or elsewhere. As officers of the court, it is necessary to exercise caution and be circumspect while judging the conduct of judges. What may seem to be unfair on the part of a judge may have been done with a completely different objective or intention.

Shivang Dubey is an advocate practicing in the Supreme Court of India.

Click here to download the Bar & Bench Android App