Bar president Dushyant Dave alleges he was not allowed to speak at Justice Mishra’s farewell
President of the Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA), Dushyant Dave wrote a strongly-worded letter to Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde on Wednesday, condemning the treatment meted out to him during the ceremonial farewell of Justice Arun Mishra of the Supreme Court.
Dave alleged that though he was invited by the Supreme Court to attend the event through video conference and had logged in using the web link sent by the registry, his microphone was deliberately muted by the registry officials preventing him from giving his speech.
It is customary for the president of the SCBA, the representative body of lawyers practicing before the Supreme Court, to deliver a speech during the farewell of Supreme Court judges.
“I wish to place on record my strong disappointment and condemnation at what happened today in the Supreme Court of India during the farewell to Justice Arun Mishra. The entire episode leaves much to be desired on the part of this great institution. The whole attempt was to prevent me from addressing on behalf of the SCBA and its Executive Committee, after having been invited and the invitation having been accepted. This was clearly an affront to the Bar and to me personally,” Dave said in his letter.
When a Supreme Court judge retires, the retiring judge sits along with the CJI on his/ her last working day and Bar leaders including the Attorney General, SCBA President and senior lawyers gather to bid farewell.
A separate elaborate farewell function is also organized by the SCBA in the Supreme Court lawns. After Covid-19 broke out and physical functioning of the court ceased, the SCBA had been organising its farewell functions through video conference. Justice Mishra had, however, declined to participate in SCBA’s farewell citing Covid-19 and stating that his conscience does not permit him to participate in a farewell function at a time when the world is reeling under the effects of the pandemic.
The ceremonial bench was thus the only opportunity for Bar leaders to bid farewell to Justice Mishra.
Dave, in his letter to the CJI, stated that he had received a link from the concerned registrar at 10.06 am to join the ceremonial Bench of the CJI at 12.30 pm where Justice Mishra was to bid farewell.
Dave had joined the conference at around 12.20 pm before the bench assembled and was seen engaging in casual conversations with the Attorney General (AG) KK Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who were also present to wish Justice Mishra on the occasion of his retirement.
Dave alleged that after the bench assembled and heard all cases, it invited AG KK Venugopal and Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association President, Shivaji Jadhav to speak but Dave got disconnected frequently.
“I persisted and rejoined each time. I saw and heard Shri Jadhav fully and at the end of his address again I was not requested to speak though Shri Jadhav acknowledged my presence in his address. After that Your Lordship spoke which I saw and heard and then invited Justice Mishra to speak. At that stage, realising the game plan I exited in the larger interests of the dignity of the Bar and myself,” the letter said.
Dave also said that he contacted Secretary General Sanjeev Kalgaonkar demanding why he was being muted but did not get any response on time.
“Only at 1.02 pm, he responded saying he is instructing Registrar to look into it, by which time it was too late and so I messaged him informing that I had exited,” Dave said.
Dave has been a vocal critic of the Supreme Court in recent years and has engaged in heated exchanges with Justice Arun Mishra on more than one occasion. The most recent of such instances was when he was appearing on behalf of advocate Prashant Bhushan in the contempt case initiated against Bhushan for his tweets criticizing the court and CJI Bobde.
What was Dave proposing to say during farewell?
Dave in his letter to the CJI also stated that he might have been prevented from speaking due to the fear on the part of the bench that he might say something unpleasant. He went on to highlight what he was proposing to say at the farewell.
“Let me tell you exactly what I was to say which I had written down: On behalf of the SCBA, the EC and myself, I wish you, Justice Mishra, happiness and bliss in the remainder of your long life which by all accounts will be as fruitful and rewarding as it has been. May I pray to Lord Mahabaleshwar to bless you with strength to introspect and stir up your conscience,” the letter said.