Supreme Court lawyers requested Justice Arun Mishra on Thursday to be patient in dealing with them after the judge warned a lawyer of contempt while hearing a land acquisition matter two days ago. A battery of senior advocates, led by Kapil Sibal, Mukul Rohatgi, Abhishek Singhvi and Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) president Rakesh Khanna, mentioned the issue as soon as the bench of justices Mishra and M R Shah assembled in court number three for the day's proceedings.
The issue cropped up as Justice Mishra, who is heading a five-judge Constitution bench hearing land acquisition matters, warned senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan on Tuesday of contempt while he was advancing his arguments.
After the lawyers mentioned the issue, Justice Mishra, while making it clear that he respected the bar more than any other judge, said if anybody felt aggrieved, he was apologising for that.
"If anybody has felt anything at any point of time, with folded hands, I am apologising," he said.
Sibal told Justice Mishra that both the bar and the bench had the duty to maintain a decorum in the court and the mutual respect should continue.
Singhvi said the bonhomie and ambience in the court should be maintained and there should be respect among the bar and the bench.
Justice Shah told the lawyers that the respect should be mutual, adding that when the bench called upon Sankaranarayanan to continue with his arguments on Tuesday, he "blatantly refused".
Rohatgi told the bench that younger lawyers were "fearful" of coming to this court and this affected the younger members of the bar.
"I am more associated with the bar. From me, you can take it that the bar is the mother of the bench. I respect the bar like anything. From the core of my heart, I am saying that please do not have that impression in your mind," Justice Mishra said.
He said he did not have any grudge against anybody and he had never ordered contempt proceedings against any lawyer in his career of around 20 years as a judge.
Justice Mishra, however, said arrogance was "destroying this great institution" and it was the duty of the bar to protect it.
"The court is not being addressed properly nowadays. So much of attack is made. This is not proper and this needs to be avoided," he said. The judge said lawyers should refrain from making personal comments against anybody while arguing their case. He added that though he was criticised throughout his career, he had always supported the Bar.
Khanna told the bench that the independence of the judiciary and the bar was very important and there was a need to maintain a mutual and cordial respect among the bar and the bench. At the fag end, Justice Mishra told the SCBA president to ask Sankaranarayanan to meet him and said he was a very intelligent and brilliant lawyer and that he wished him a bright future.
The Supreme Court Advocates-on-Record Association (SCAORA) expressed concern over the incident on Wednesday and requested the judge to be "a little bit more patient in dealing with lawyers".
"The EC of SCAORA expresses its deep concern over the threat of contempt proceedings and conviction by Justice Arun Mishra to Gopal Sankaranarayanan, while he was performing his professional duties.
"Several members of the bar have repeatedly been raising such grievance about the unwanted treatment and passing of personal remarks by Justice Mishra," a resolution passed by the SCAORA said, adding that the duty to maintain the court's dignity and decorum was upon both lawyers and judges.
"We request Justice Mishra to be a little bit more patient in dealing with lawyers," it had said.
Senior advocate and former SCBA president Vikas Singh had written a letter to Khanna, urging him to call an urgent meeting to "condemn" the incident. Expressing distress over the incident, he had said lawyers and judges were equal stakeholders in the functioning of the apex court and their relationship should be based upon mutual trust and respect.
Singh had also written in his letter that terrorising lawyers with contempt and not allowing them to argue "undermines the very fundamentals of the justice delivery system" and asked the SCBA to pass a resolution condemning the incident.