As Hon’ble Mr. Justice Arun Mishra’s term as a Judge of The Supreme Court of India comes to a close, we attempt to recapitulate his legal career spanning 42 years.

Travelling Back in Time

Justice Arun Mishra was born on September 3rd, 1955 to MP High Court judge, Late Justice Hargovind Mishra. Having completed his graduation in Science and obtaining M.A. Degree and Degree in Law simultaneously, he went on to become a Member of Faculty of Law in Jiwaji University, Gwalior from 1991 to 1996.

Career Highlights 

As Advocate/ Member of the Bar

Justice Mishra joined the Bar in 1978 wherein he dealt with matters related to Constitutional, Civil, Industrial, Criminal and Service Matters in the Bench of High Court of Madhya Pradesh at Gwalior.

As member of the Bar Council of India, he meticulously ushered in major reforms, some of which are as follows:

  1. He co-chaired All India Meet of Development of Law curriculum which introduced 3 and 5 year courses of LL.B. in the year 1998-1999, which was a major step towards improving the quality of Legal Education.
  2. During his Chairmanship, Bar Council of India decided to close the evening Law Colleges and more than two hundred sub-standard law colleges were closed.
  3. Providing an impetus to Advocate Welfare, amount of medical aid to lawyers was enhanced. He also drafted and implemented the Foreign Law Degree Recognition Rules of 1997 under Advocates’ Act, 1961; Bar Council of India Employees’ Service Rules, 1996 and Rules pertaining to Foreign Lawyers’ Conditions of Practice in India.
  4. Remained Chairman of General Council of National Law School of India University, Bangalore, from 15.5.1998 to 24.10.1999 and continues to be a Member.
  5. He led Indian Bar delegation to the “Law Conference of “Commonwealth Countries” held at ‘Malaysia’ in September, 1999 and chaired one Session there.

As Judge of Madhya Pradesh HC and Chief Justice of Rajasthan and Calcutta High Courts

He was appointed as Additional Judge of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh on October 25, 1999 and as Permanent Judge on October 24, 2001. He was also the Administrative judge of Madhya Pradesh High Court, and Chairman, State Legal Services Authority of Madhya Pradesh In November 2010 he was appointed as the Acting Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court and the next month itself, he took Oath of Office as the Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court. Later on he was transferred to Calcutta High Court as Chief Justice and took oath on 14-12-2012.

Following is the list of important decisions taken during Justice Mishra’s term in the aforementioned High Courts: 

  • Awadhesh Singh v. Union of India, 2013 SCC OnLine Cal 9458 The Full Bench of Calcutta HC comprising of Arun Mishra, CJ., Dipankar Datta and Joymalya Bagchi, JJ., held that when regularization/absorption and/or reinstatement/continuance is sought in the service of the Eastern Railway, the Central Administrative Tribunal will have the jurisdiction and as per provisions of S. 28 of the Administrative Tribunals Act, 1985, the matter can also be filed before the Industrial Tribunal or the Labour Court.
  • Sabyasachi Chatterjee v. Prasad Chatterjee, 2013 SCC OnLine Cal 13480 While deciding whether interlocutory Order passed by Appellate Court in an Appeal from a decree is appealable, the Bench of Arun Mishra, CJ., Joymalya Bagchi and Sanjib Bannerjee, JJ., held that an Interlocutory Order in Appeal cannot be appealed against unless specifically provided for.
  • Sheel Chand Jain v. State of M.P., 2010 SCC OnLine MP 92 The Full Bench of Madhya Pradesh HC comprising R.S. Garg, Arun Mishra, K.K. Lahoti, Ajit Singh and Rajendra Menon, JJ., held that when order of refusal to grant Samman Nidhi is absolutely bad in law under R. 3(6) of M.P. Swatantrata Sangram Sainik Samman Nidhi Niyam, 1972 and the Court reverses such an order and the pension is granted pursuant thereto, then it is open to the Court to specify the date from which benefit of Samman Nidhi would be available.
  • Sunil v. Awadh Narayan, 2010 SCC OnLine MP 341 In the matter revolving around Ad valorem court fee and fixed court fee, the Full Bench of Arun Mishra, K.K. Lahoti and Alok Aradhe, JJ., held that when the plaintiff makes an allegation that the instrument is void and hence not binding on him and a declaration simplicitor is prayed, then he is not required to pay ad valorem Court-fee and in such case, a fixed Court fee under Article 17, Schedule-II of the Court Fees Act will be payable.
  • Mahesh Agrawal v. State of Rajasthan, 2012 SCC OnLine Raj 2387 While hearing a PIL filed seeking a ban on the sale and usage of artificial polyamide threads for flying kites in Jaipur City and the State of Rajasthan on the festival of ‘Makar Sankranti’, the Bench of Arun Mishra, CJ., and Narendra Kumar Jain, J., held that the use of plastic or any such synthetic material of Chinese make or other toxic material like iron powder, glass powder etc. which is likely to cause injuries to living beings has been prohibited u/S. 5 of Environment (Protection) Act, 1986.

As Judge of the Supreme Court of India

Justice Mishra was elevated to Supreme Court of India on 07-07-2014. In December 2019, he was nominated as the Chairman of Supreme Court Legal Services Committee. In his 6 year tenure, Justice Mishra delivered a noteworthy mix of historic and controversial decisions. A firm believer in the Independence and Dignity of Judiciary and Judges, Justice Mishra in his decisions, made it a point to fervently highlight these ideas.

Following is the list of some of his significant decisions that gave the legal fraternity several chances to celebrate and debate

  • Vineeta Sharma v. Rakesh Sharma, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 641: The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, SA Nazeer and MR Shah, JJ held that daughters have right in coparcenary by birth and that it is not necessary that the father coparcener should be living when the Hindu Succession (Amendment) Act, 2005 came into force. Read more  
  • Sushila Aggarwal v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2020 SCC OnLine SC 98: In this significant ruling, a 5-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah, and Ravindra Bhat, JJ., unanimously ruled that the protection granted to a person under Section 438 Cr.PC should not invariably be limited to a fixed period; it should inure in favour of the accused without any restriction on time. Read more
  • Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms v. Union of India, (2018) 1 SCC 196 : This high voltage matter highlighting the case registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation against Retired Orissa High Court Judge, Justice IM Quddusi containing serious allegations implicating the said Judge under Ss. 8 and 120-B of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, the 5-judge bench of Dipak Misra, CJ., along with RK Agrawal, Arun Mishra, Amitava Roy and AM Khanwilkar, JJ held that- “There can be no doubt that the Chief Justice of India is the first amongst the equals, but definitely, he exercises certain administrative powers.”Read more   
  • Chebrolu Leela Prasad Rao v. State of Andhra Pradesh, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 383: The 5-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose, JJ., held the Government Office Ms. No.3 dated 10.1.2000 issued by the erstwhile State of Andhra Pradesh providing 100% reservation to the Scheduled Tribe candidates (out of whom 33.1/3% shall be women) for the post of teachers in the schools in the scheduled areas in Andhra Pradesh, unconstitutional, as there was no rhyme or reason with the State Government to resort to 100% reservation. Read more
  • Pandurang Ganpati Chaugule v. Vishwasrao Patil Murgud Sahakari Bank Ltd., 2020 SCC OnLine SC 431: The 5-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose, JJ held that “’banking’ relating to co­operatives can be included within the purview of Entry 45 of List I, and it cannot be said to be over inclusion to cover provisions of recovery by co­operative banks in the SARFAESI Act.” Read more
  • State of Punjab v. Davinder Singh, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 677: The 5-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose, JJ upon noticing that SC decision of E.V. Chinnaiah v. State of A.P., (2005) 1 SCC 394, is required to be revisited, referred the matter to a larger bench. While doing so, the Court observed, “Reservation was not contemplated for all the time by the framers of the Constitution.  On the one hand, there is no exclusion of those who have come up, on the other hand, if sub- classification is denied, it would defeat right to equality by treating unequal as equal.”  Read more
  • Mukesh v. State (Narcotic Branch of Delhi), 2020 SCC OnLine SC 700: The 5-judge Constitution bench of Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ., held that the accused under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS Act) is not entitled to an acquittal as a blanket rule merely because the complainant is the investigating officer. Read more
  • TN Medical Officers Association v. Union of India: The 5-judge Constitution bench of Arun Mishra, Indira Banerjee, Vineet Saran, MR Shah and Aniruddha Bose, JJ., held that the Medical Council of India has no power to make any reservation for in-service candidates in Post Graduate Medical Course in States and that only States are allowed to grant the benefit of reservation of seats to in-service doctors in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) postgraduate degree courses. Read more
  • Union of India v. Unicorn Industries (2019) 10 SCC 575: The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, MR Shah and BR Gavai, JJ., held that by invoking the doctrine of promissory estoppel, the Union of India cannot be estopped from withdrawing the exemption from payment of Excise Duty in respect of certain products, which exemption is granted by an earlier notification; when the Union of India finds that such a withdrawal is necessary in the public interest. Read more

Decisions that initiated broader discourse

Justice Mishra’s tenure has also witnessed some major upheavals in the judicial system of the country. There were times of predicament, however being a Supreme Judge is never an easy task. Following are some of Justice Mishra’s decisions that came under heavy scrutiny by people all across various fields –

  • In Re: Matter of great public importance touching upon the Independence of Judiciary, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 604: A Special 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Rohinton Nariman and Deepak Gupta, JJ appointed former Supreme Court judge, Justice A. K. Patnaik, to hold an inquiry into the allegations made in the probe an advocate’s claim that there was a “conspiracy” to frame Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi in a sexual harassment case. Read more
  • In Re Prashant Bhushan, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 646: The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari, JJ., held advocate Prashant guilty of criminal contempt in the suo motu contempt petition initiated against him after he criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets. It was held, “The tweets which are based on the distorted facts, in our considered view, amount to committing of ‘criminal contempt”. Stating that in order to protect the larger public interest, such attempts of attack on the highest judiciary of the country should be dealt with firmly.. Read more
  • In Re Prashant Bhushan, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 698: The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, BR Gavai and Krishna Murari sentenced advocate Prashant Bhushan to a fine of Rupee 1 to be deposited by September 15. He will have to undergo sentence for 3 months and will be debarred from practice for 3 years in case of default. The Court had found advocate Prashant guilty of criminal contempt on 14-08-2020 in the suo motu contempt petition initiated against him after he criticised the Supreme Court and the sitting and former CJIs in a couple of tweets. Read more
  • Wildlife First v. Ministry of Forest and Environment, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 238: The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee, JJ ordered the forced eviction of more than 1,000,000 tribals and other forest-dwelling households from forestlands across 16 states after the government failed to defend the validity of the Forest Rights Act. Read more
  • Prathvi Raj Chauhan v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 159: A 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and S. Ravindra Bhat, JJ has upheld the constitutional validity of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Act, 2018, and said that a court can grant anticipatory bail only in cases where a prima facie case is not made out. The verdict came in the petition challenging the provisions inserted by way of carving out section 18A of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Read more
  • Union of India State of Maharashtra, 2019 SCC OnLine SC 1279: The 3-judge Bench of Arun Mishra, MR Shah and BR Gavai, JJ., partially set aside the 2-judge verdict in Dr Subhash Kashinath Mahajan v. State of Maharashtra, (2018) 6 SCC 454. It was held that some portions of the said verdict were against the concept of protective discrimination in favour of down­trodden classes under Article 15(4) of the Constitution and also impermissible within the parameters laid down by this Court for exercise of powers under Article 142 of Constitution of India. Read more
  • Christian Medical College Vellore Association v. Union of India, 2020 SCC OnLine SC 423: The 3-judge bench of Arun Mishra, Vineet Saran and MR Shah, JJ has held that prescribing uniform examination of NEET for admissions in the graduate and postgraduate professional courses of medical as well as dental science is not in violation of the rights of the unaided/aided minority to administer institutions under Articles 19(1) (g) and 30 read with Articles 25, 26 and 29(1) of the Constitution. Read more 

Distinct Achievements

  1. Elected as youngest Chairman of Bar Council of India (1998-99).
  2. Also Vice-Chairman of BCI and M.P. State Bar Council. Elected to Bar Council of M.P. with record votes in 1989 and 1995
  3. He holds the distinction of deciding approximately 97000 cases as Judge of High Courts of M.P/ Rajasthan and Calcutta.

Justice Arun Mishra’s tenure can be best described as “a roller-coster ride” having its own highs and lows. His decisions not only allowed wider discussions on topics ranging from dignity of Judiciary to the right of a daughter in the parental property; but also enriched these deliberations with insight.

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