He had believed himself branded a “junior judge” at the unprecedented news conference of January 12, 2018, by four top Supreme Court judges, including the current Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
The judges had suggested that the then Chief Justice, Dipak Misra, was allegedly acting in an arbitrary manner to allocate high-profile cases to favoured colleagues. They did not name anyone and referred only to “junior judges”.
Justice Arun Mishra was then 10th in the hierarchy and was sitting on benches hearing some of the most important cases.
Sources said he sobbed at an internal meeting of judges and asked why he was being targeted. The sources quoted him as telling colleagues that despite his ill-health, successive Chief Justices — H.L. Dattu, T.S. Thakur, J.S. Khehar and then Dipak Misra — had given him a large number of cases because he worked hard, and for that he could not be blamed.
On at least two occasions after that news conference, Justice Arun Mishra asked advocates in the open court in Court Hall No. 10 why they were crowding a “junior judge’s” court.
“Why is so much crowd here? I am a junior judge, why is there so much crowd here?” he had asked sarcastically.
Now, 15 months down the line, Justice Mishra must be all smiles, at least in private.
Justice Gogoi, who along with Justice J. Chelameshwar, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph had held the news conference, has chosen him to head a bench that will decide on an issue that, according to the court, has put its survival at stake.
Justice Mishra will head the bench tasked with getting to the root of the alleged conspiracy to frame the Chief Justice in a sexual harassment case. He is no longer a “junior judge” either, having risen to fifth in the hierarchy.
Justice Gogoi picked him from among 27 judges for the special hearing on April 20 — when the sexual harassment allegations against him first surfaced in the media — to be the second senior-most judge on the three-judge bench headed by himself and including Justice Deepak Gupta.
However, after outrage over the propriety of the Chief Justice presiding over a bench dealing with allegations against himself, he stepped out. The bench was reconstituted with Justice Arun Mishra as the head and Justices R.F. Nariman and Deepak Gupta as its other members.
On Wednesday, during the hearing of an affidavit filed by an advocate alleging conspiracy to defame the judiciary, Justice Mishra said the bench would go to the “root” of the conspiracy without overlapping the working of the other bench, of Justices S.A. Bobde, N.V. Ramana and Indira Banerjee, that is dealing with the sexual harassment charges against Justice Gogoi.