There was a Full Court Reference at the Supreme Court on 7th August, 2012 in the memory of Late Shri Prabha Shankar Mishra, Senior Advocate. It was briefly mentioned that P.S. Mishra was appointed as a Judge of the Patna High Court in 1982; was transferred to the Madras High Court in 1990; was thereafter appointed as the Chief Justice of the Andhra Pradesh High Court in 1995 and of the Calcutta High Court in 1997. A few weeks before retirement, Justice P.S. Mishra submitted his resignation on July 5, 1998. The Full Court Reference did a great injustice to his story.
Just two days before Justice Mishra’s transfer to Madras, the then Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav had boasted some judges would be sent out of the State. A large section of the Patna HC Bar Association had signed a memorandum stating that the ‘transfer smacks of political vendetta and executive bias’.
A similar experience awaited Justice Mishra at Andhra Pradesh. Even a common man will vouch safe that the prestige and dignity of the AP High Court was taken to its zenith under his tenure. And yet, 12 Judges eventually signed a petition against him and reasonably ensured his transfer to the Calcutta HC.
After tendering his resignation from the post of the Chief Justice of the Cal HC, Justice Mishra told BBC that the 3 Judges appointed to the SC were all his junior. He criticized the way the Judges were appointed to India’s Highest Court. Justice M.M. Punchhi was the CJI then. It is understood repeated complaints were made to him.
Journeying through 4 High Courts, Justice Mishra finally donned the robe of a Senior Counsel at the SC and lived an honest, hard-working life. That he was awarded a Full Court Reference is enough indication of his stature, though a young advocate may have never heard of his name.
Many have commented post the Justice Jayant Patel Resignation that it must be one of the saddest days of the Indian Judiciary. The Indian Judiciary is beset with such sad days. But the Justices have nearly always redeemed themselves. While we await for Justice Patel’s life to unfold from here on, I can only say being a Supreme Court Judge has never been and never should be the coveted goal of any Indian Judge. Its not your judgments but your principles that will stay with us, never to be overruled.