Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra held court for the last time on Monday. At his farewell speech, Misra said the Indian judiciary is the “most robust institution” in the world with a capacity to handle a “mind boggling number of cases”, PTI reported.
Justice must have a “human face”, Misra said in his address at the event organised by the Supreme Court Bar Association. “History can be sometimes kind, and unkind,” Misra said. “I do not judge people by their history but by their activities, perspective. In my whole career as a judge, I never dissociated myself from the lady of equity.”
He said: “If we fail in endeavour to hold true to our constitutional ideals, we will continue to kill, hate each other.”
Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who will succeed Misra, called him a “remarkable judge”.
Monday was Misra’s last working day as his retirement date falls on Tuesday, which is a holiday on account of Gandhi Jayanti. Gogoi is set to take over from Wednesday.
The court did not hear any urgent mentioning of matters on Monday, and said they could be heard on Wednesday. Misra presided over a bench of Justices Gogoi and AM Khanwilkar on Monday.
He “appeared emotional” during the brief, 25-minute-long proceedings in court, PTI reported. A lawyer began singing a Hindi song from the late 1950s, “Tum jiyo hazaron saal”, but Misra stopped him immediately and said: “Presently I am responding from my heart. I will respond from my mind in the evening.”
Over the last month, and especially the last week, Supreme Court benches headed by Misra have delivered a series of key verdicts on matters such as decriminalising consensual homosexual acts, upholding the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, allowing the entry of all women into the Sabarimala temple in Kerala, decriminalising adultery, allowing the live-streaming of court proceedings and introducing the framework of the “creamy layer” in reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Misra was also a part of the benches that rejected a petition in connection with the Ayodhya case, which sought to refer to a larger bench its judgement from 1994, which held that namaaz can be offered anywhere and that a mosque is not a “essential part of the practice of the religion of Islam”. His bench also refused to ban politicians facing criminal charges from elections and told Parliament to frame law instead.
Misra became a permanent judge on December 19, 1997. He became the chief justice of the Patna High Court in December 2009, and the chief justice of the Delhi High Court in May 2010. He was elevated to the Supreme Court in 2011. He took charge as the chief justice of India on August 28, 2017.
Misra was in the midst of a controversy after four Supreme Court judges – Jasti Chelameswar, Gogoi, MB Lokur and Kurian Joseph – held an unprecedented press conference on January 12 to speak out against the manner in which he had been assigning cases to benches and handling other matters. Chelameswar has since retired.