With a considerable number of judgments embellishing his decades long career in the legal field, Justice Vyas Dev Misra was a hidden gem among the long list of Justices who graced the Indian Legal system with their conscientious and insightful minds. Acclaimed for an intrepid and a courageous personality, it would not be far fetched to call Justice Misra an apostle of justice whose ground-breaking and progressive take on legal and social issues crippling the society, abetted in restoring the confidence of the general public in the Indian Judiciary.
Born on 1st October, 1921, Justice Vyas Dev Misra concluded his schooling at M.B Higher Secondary School, Mandir Marg, New Delhi. He enrolled himself in Hindu College, University of Delhi for his graduation as well as post graduation and earned a Masters in Arts. Later, Justice Misra joined the prestigious Faculty of law in Delhi University for a degree of Bachelors in Law (LLB), thereby starting his journey in the field of law. To gain further knowledge, Justice Misra joined the University College of London in England and received a degree of Bar-at-law, thereby resulting in the completion and culmination of his academic career.
In the year 1947, Justice Vyas Dev Misra finally enrolled himself as an advocate on 16th September, following which he practiced litigation for around thirteen years, working at the ground level and aiding the citizens in resolving their legal disputes by representing them in courts. During these years, he acquired tremendous expertise along with the know-how, both in civil as well as criminal matters. Owing to his experience, he was appointed as the Additional Public Prosecutor of Delhi on 1st September, 1960. He continued expanding his proficiency of legal knowledge.
After a period of four years, in the year 1964, he was promoted to the post of the Public Prosecutor in Delhi. After working as the Public Prosecutor, Justice Misra earned another promotion and was delegated to the position of Additional Standing Counsel of Delhi on 1st September in 1967. Owing to his astronomical and considerable command over the criminal area of law, he was appointed as the Additional Judge of High Court of Delhi on 30th July, 1969 for a period of two years. Justice Misra’s opinions, unique viewpoints and his assessment of legal matters reflected in the decisions he took, which brought him a lot of prestige and eminence.
As a result of his prominence, he was appointed as a permanent judge of the High Court of Delhi on 4th November, 1970. While working as a judge, Justice Vyas Dev Misra was also actively involved in the Blind Relief Association of Delhi along with his brothers, Shri Shiv Kumar Misra, Professor Viswa Mitra Misra and Shri Om Prakash Misra. Justice Misra contributed a lot to the association through his unrelenting efforts.
The inclination of his interest towards coming to the assisstance of those in need was well reflected by his involvement in the association since its inception. Justice Misra acted as the legal advisor to the founder of the Blind Relief Association, Mr. Basurkar and also helped it grow after he became the Vice President of the Managing Committee.
During his tenure as a judge of the Delhi High Court, Justice Misra rose to fame for coming to the aid of an innocent couple, who were harassed by the officials of Delhi Police while taking a stroll along the lawns near India Gate. Intervening in the situation, he got the two policemen suspended from their duties.
Even during the period of emergency in India, Justice Misra never backed down from the call of his conscience and justness and proceeded to restore a plethora of deferred rights to the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) and Defence of India Rules (DIR). His several judgments over the years have never failed to prove that he was a man who did not necessary believe in adhering to the conventional ways. His scrutiny and the verdicts he has delivered have frazzled the governmental authorities one too many times. He also achieved the appraisal of the public when he directed the jail authorities to not forego the basic rights of the political prisoners and to provide them with the basic human facilities of food as well as periodic rendezvous with their family members. Another instance of his avant-garde decision was the granting of authorization to the students who had been detained on various accounts, to appear for their examinations even after facing resistance from the authorities concerned.
After serving as a Judge in the High Court of Delhi for a period of nine years, Justice Vyas Dev Misra was transferred to the High Court of Himachal Pradesh in the year 1979 and was appointed as the acting Chief Justice on 23rd November in the same year. Just a month later, he was promoted as the Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court on 12th December.
Justice Misra was renowned among his peers and the members of the Simla Bar Association for his deep seated solicitousness for the contravention of the constitutional provisions and towards the misdemeanour of the violators of the law. He also expressed his perturbation towards the increasing crimes crippling the society. As a part of his exceptional, yet noteworthy ways of bringing justice to the needy, what caught the attention of the public was Justice Misra’s resolution of taking cognizance of issues on the basis of anonymous complaints and then dealing with them.
He used to meander down Shimla’s famous mall road without any armed security guards and with his keen sense of observation, discerned the multiple ways in which corruption was rampant and how the citizens were suffering due to a lack of deliverance of timely justice.
One of the most famous case establishing Justice Misra’s regard and concern for the public affairs as well as public litigation was the judgment that he gave in relation to the municipal proceedings of Shimla. The administration of Shimla came under the radar for charging municipal taxes from the people while the streets and roads were littered with filth and garbage which were detrimental to the health of the public. As per his decision, the civil administration of the city was directed to provide the citizens with all the necessary amenities since if the authorities could not maintain the cleanliness of the city despite it being their responsibility, then they had absolutely no right to collect taxes.
Another famous incident involving Justice Vyas Dev Misra was the departure of the then Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh, Thakur Ram Lal, following Justice Misra’s judgment dated 14th January, 1983 in the case of alleged smuggling of timber involving Thakur Ram Lal’s son Jagdish and his acquaintance Mast Ram Taunta. Justice Misra also declined the enforcement of an accord which was entered into by the then Chief Minister along with the striking gazetted officers. His decision led to multiple officers of the State Judiciary facing disciplinary charges for taking part in the strike. Justice Misra resolutely believed in the independence of the Judiciary and his verdicts were aimed at proving the same.
Justice Misra was an appreciated asset to the Judicial system who utilised each and every opportunity for executing the critical judicial reforms which were a need of the hour. During his tenure as the Chief Justice of the Himachal Pradesh High Court, the state witnessed a decrease of 8 percent in the number of pending cases in the Court. Simultaneously, an increase of 15 percent, in the disposal of pending cases was also observed. His lack of tolerance towards corrupt systems which caused a delay in the justice, only led to him earning more respect from everyone around him.
Justice Misra once caused the entire State Judiciary to go into consternation when he, through his orders, directed the compulsory retirement of a district judge along with three other junior judges since they lacked integrity. He also ordered for the delivery of applicant’s court papers on the same day, since preceding his tenure, the litigants used to receive them after weeks, thus resulting in pending court cases.
Justice Vyas Dev Misra retired as the Chief Justice of the High Court of Himachal Pradesh on 30th September, 1983, four years after his election to the position. He died on 20th June, 1990. His decisions, judgments and ground-breaking perspective was a clear symbolization of his dedication towards the public.
The Indian Judiciary certainly needs more aware individuals who are sensitive to the issues being faced by the general public like Justice Vyas Dev Misra was.
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