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J Dipak Misra makes it to CJI office today, despite opposition from several fronts for more than a year

Justice Dipak Misra took oath today as the 45th Chief Justice of India (CJI), succeeding CJI JS Khehar. Misra's suitability for India's highest judicial office was questioned before CJI Khehar and in the media, since last year when his name surfaced in allegations of misrepresentation from 1979.

Senior counsel Adish C Aggarwala and Shanti Bhushan and advocate Mathews Nedumpara and other activists have, independently of each other, openly opposed Justice Misra's appointment to the CJI's office, based on the allegation that when he was a lawyer in 1979, Misra had tried to grab public land for private use by stating false facts on an affidavit he had filed.

“An Odisha-based activist, Jayanta Kumar Das, had alleged in a letter to then CJI T.S. Thakur in September 2016 that Justice Misra misrepresented facts in attempting to get hold of public land meant to be distributed to the landless poor for agricultural purposes,” according to The Wire.

In 1985 Misra's misrepresentation was caught by a civil court and his land allotment ordered to be cancelled but the actual cancellation only happened through a 2009 writ in the Orissa high court. The writ was before Orissa high court judge Indrajit Mohanty, and did not progress despite a CBI finding confirming the irregularity in land allotment.

The finding against Misra resurfaced in June 2017 in an enquiry ordered by CJI Thakur against Mohanty and another Orissa high court judge, both of whom were accused of corruption and misconduct. The committee which was composed of high court judges had to halt its probe at that point, due to Misra's official seniority to them.

Following this discovery, Aggarwala wrote to CJI Khehar requesting that Misra's appointment to the office of CJI be stalled until an enquiry committee exonerates him of the wrongdoing.

In July 2017 Aggarwala told The Wire:

The chief justice of the high court Punjab and Haryana had informed Justice Khehar about the allegations against Justice Misra on June 15, but the CJI has not responded. Therefore, we are planning to write to the president and the prime minister and request them to look into the letter that the CJ of Punjab and Haryana has written. The government can’t inquire into allegations against a sitting judge of SC. This can only done by the in-house committee. We will request the government to ask the CJI whether he had considered the allegations and formed an in-house committee to probe the matter

Shanti Bhushan wrote in The Wire on 2 August:

On August 27, Chief Justice of India (CJI) J.S. Khehar will demit office. The next in line is Justice Dipak Misra, but should the vacancy be filled up simply by the rule of seniority?

Bhushan added:

Seniority is an important principle, though not the only principle for appointing the CJI. I have always opposed the supersession of judges for political or ideological considerations. As law minister in 1977, I had opposed the strident demand from my party to supercede judges who had decided the infamous habeas corpus judgement during the Emergency. In this case, however, the issue is of unsuitability on serious ethical considerations. The recommendation by the present CJI for Justice Misra to succeed him is unfortunate in light of his own observations in the NJAC case. The country will now have to look up to the president and the prime minister to perform their duties, send back the CJI’s recommendation and suggest the appointment of the next judge in seniority.

Nedumpura's office noted several days ago:

The writ petition by Hon'ble Harinder Singh Khalsa, Member of Parliament from Punjab, seeking a declaration that Hon'ble Mr.Justice Dipak Mishra, the senior most ‘puisne' judge of the Supreme Court is disqualified to be appointed as the Chief Justice of India in pursuance of the recommendations of the outgoing Chief Justice of India, because of allegations of corruption, was mentioned before the Hon'ble Chief Justice of the High Court of Delhi at 10:30 AM, seeking emergent hearing in view of the great importance of the issue.

Shri.Mathews J.Nedumpara, representing Sri Khalsa brought to the notice of the Hon. Court that by following the practise in vogue in the Delhi High Court to give prior notice to the respondent/government has in fact meant the very purpose of the writ petition being frustrated in as much as that made government act post haste,nay, failing to objectively consider the merits of the plea made out by Sri Khalsa.

It was further pointed out that a few other parliamentarians too are equally concerned of the issue of probity raised by Sri Khalsa and that the case be listed in the afternoon. The learned Acting Chief Justice, however, was pleased to turn down the plea for emergent hearing, pointing out that the swearing in of the new chief justice is only on 28th of August and there is ample time for the matter to be brought up in the regular course.

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