New Delhi: Justice Dipak Misra’s tenure as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, which draws to a close, has been the most volatile phase of the Indian judiciary.

As the Chief Justice, he was eloquent, indulging, and amiable yet tactful in the way he handled his courtroom, court no. 1, popularly known as the chief’s court.

Now, as he gets ready to hang up his robes, Justice Misra has secured his legacy through his body of work and landmark progressive judgements, which shall aid in justice for generations ahead.

In his more than 13 months as the country’s highest judicial authority, he diverted his attention from hearing regular cases and concentrated on wrapping up key constitutional issues such as the challenge to Aadhaar, section 377 (criminalization of homosexuality), adultery law, privacy law, entry of women into Sabarimala temple, Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid (Ayodhya) dispute, decriminalization of politics, Bhima-Koregaon violence and live-streaming of court proceedings, among others.

His observations frequently made headlines as he stood for upholding constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights, individual and civil liberties. He also ensured that he was at the helm of benches set up to address homebuyers’ woes against companies such as Jaypee, Unitech and Supertech.

His tenure can certainly be termed as being tumultuous in terms of the controversies he attracted. However, he emerged as a champion of civil liberties, women rights, equality and privacy rights. He became popular for his eloquent ways as most of his judgments began with an extended poem or quote and included interesting anecdotes along the way. In his verdict striking down section 377, he cited German thinker Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as he stated, “I am what I am, so take me as I am." He was also seen to rely on literary works of other philosophers, writer and poets such as Shakespeare, Pablo Neruda, P.B. Shelley, Alexander Pope, and T.S. Eliot while expressing his views on individual freedom and dignity. His judgement on adultery began with citing the inclusiveness of the Indian Constitution to include “I", “you" and “we".

As much as 65-year old Misra deserves credit for painting the country’s highest judicial institution as one that is liberal, and progressive, his tenure saw him often being labelled as controversy’s child. His power as the chief justice to form benches and allot cases was something that was questioned, criticized and kept the four most senior judges of the Supreme Court away from being involved in important cases. Incidentally, these four judges, namely Justices J. Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph were among those that called a press conference in January this year, the first of its kind in the history of Indian judiciary that criticized Misra on various issues including manner of allocation of cases. Despite repeated attempts to resolve the judicial crisis, Justice Misra’s response was to maintain stoic silence on the matter. He also attracted criticism for the way he handled the challenge to judge B.H Loya’s death and its decision where the top court rejected the demand for an independent investigation.

To aggravate matters, he faced an impeachment notice for removal from office moved by Congress-led opposition parties. In April, Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu rejected the notice on grounds that it lacked substantive merit. Allegations against Misra included his involvement in a conspiracy to pay bribes in relation to a medical admission scam, dealing with a case in which he was likely to fall under the scope of investigation, antedating an administrative order of 6 November 2017 and alleged abuse of administrative power in allocating cases in the Supreme Court. He is also embroiled in a land allotment case in Odisha where the lease of land allotted to him was cancelled by the state government owing to irregularities in an affidavit.

Judge Misra, who has served as the Chief Justice of the Patna and Delhi high courts before being elevated to the Supreme Court in 2011, has been credited with key verdicts such as sending Mumbai blasts convict Yakub Memon and four men who raped and killed a physiotherapy intern to the gallows. He also played an active role in the crackdown on child pornography websites and his views on nationalism were sufficiently highlighted when he ruled for compulsorily standing up for national anthem in theatres.

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