Justice Dipak Misra

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A brief biography

Dhananjay Mahapatra, Judicial warrior who stood against gender injustice, October 1, 2018: The Times of India

Justice Misra Retires On Tuesday After An 8-Year Stint In SC

Even after packing last week with back-to-back important judgments, Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra has not finished the task of completing pronouncements in the multitude of cases he took up during his one year and one month tenure in the top post in judiciary.

The last hurrah will come on Monday, his last working day before retiring on Gandhi Jayanti, when a bench-led by him delivers verdict on a petition seeking protection of release of films from vandalising mobs, a recurring phenomenon in India since the 1970s.

Going beyond last week’s judgments — from defanging Aadhaar to decriminalising adultery, and even beyond verdicts of the recent past including the one that gave legal and constitutional space to LGBT community members to express their sexuality, there have been plenty of them by CJI Misra or a bench led by him for citizens to look back and judge the man, who became an SC judge on an October day eight years ago.

Two death sentences were upheld by benches led by him. One cleared the way for the hanging of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon, brother of Tiger Memon, in the 1993 Mumbai serial bomb blast case. Memon’s lawyers were given multiple opportunities, one starting after midnight and ending at dawn, hours before the hangman put the noose around his neck. After the verdict, Justice Misra was given Z+ security following threat to his life.

In the other judgment, a Justice Misra-led bench rejected attempts against death sentence by the four convicts who brutally assaulted Nirbhaya in a moving bus. He also upheld the 25-year sentence to Vikas Yadav, son of politician D P Yadav, holding him guilty of killing Nitish Katara.

At the same time, another Justice Misra-led bench was alive to the traumatic way in which death sentence is executed under Section 354(5) of Criminal Procedure Code — hanged by the neck till s/he is dead”. In the PIL filed by Rishi Malhotra, the bench recommended to Parliament to “think of some other mode by which a convict who, in law, has to face death sentence should die without pain.”

Staying with right to die with dignity, a Justice Mishra-headed fivejudge bench in March made passive euthanasia a reality by allowing individuals to draft a ‘living will’, declining to prolong her/his life at the mercy of artificial life support system when s/he slips into an incurable coma in future.

But he consistently showed no judicial mercy on the virulent mob culture that did not flinch in lynching persons on flimsy grounds or vandalising film sets, as was done in the case of ‘Padmavat’ or threatened to be done to Priya Varrier of ‘Oru Adaar Love’ fame. He led a bench to pronounce clearly against cow vigilantism and put a six-month timeline for conclusion of trial in such cases to ensure speedy justice to kin of victims.

In 2015, Justice Misra had taken note of the new trend of increasing number of juveniles getting involved in heinous crimes like rape, dacoity and murder and said extending the kid-glove treatment, meant for minors involved in petty crimes, to such cases would be counter-productive in the long run.

The bench had requested the legislature to take a closer look at amending the law to bring juveniles involved in heinous offences under the rigour of law applicable to other citizens. Three years later, in a PIL by Alakh Alok Srivastava, he ordered the Centre and states to take immediate measures for speedy trial in cases under Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act.

Discrimination faced by women artists and professionals in the celluloid world was brought to the notice of the Supreme Court by Charu Khurana and a bench headed by Justice Misra came to her rescue and restored her professional dignity in the male bastion in 2015.

History will credit him for passing a series of judgments striving to protect women’s dignity, their right to equality and freedom of choice be it in any profession (dance bars) or termination of unwanted pregnancies, even if it had crossed the 20-week deadline under Medical Termination of Pregnancy law.

Last but not the least, AAP and BJP will remember the verdict by a five-judge bench led by CJI Misra on the turf war over administration of Delhi, where both claimed victory. A bench also struck down use of ‘NOTA’ in Rajya Sabha elections. Highway drivers will remember him for making it a little more difficult for them to get high behind the wheels as a bench-led by him moved liquor vends 500 metres away from national and state highways.

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