When I first sat with Justice Gyansudha Mishra on a Supreme Court bench, I spoke with her for about 10 minutes before going to the Courtroom.
I told her that if in any case she differed from me she should not hesitate to say so. I will never take offence. The very purpose of a bench is that two heads are better than one. It could be that I was on the wrong track, and she may put me back on the right one, realizing my error.
A single person, however intelligent he may be, may often have an idea which is subjective, one-sided, and with angularities. But when two or more persons sit together and discuss something, the view which emerges is more likely to be more objective and balanced, with all aspects taken into account, and with angularities rubbed pff.
So I told her that she should never hesitate to express her own opinion, even if if differed sharply with mine,and I will never mind.
I told her that I would consult her in every case before passing the order. There are some senior Judges who do not like their junior on the bench differing from them, but I was not one of them. On the bench we are equals in judicial matters, and her voice would carry as much weight as mine.
I told her that her that in the Allahabad High Court, I was once sitting with a senior Judge. He started passing orders without even consulting me. When I told him politely that he should consult me before passing orders, he got offended. I told him that then what was the purpose of my being on the bench ? Was I there only for signing orders which had been passed by him ?
I also told Justice Mishra that she had the right to put questions to the lawyer arguing a case, or express her own views in a case, directly. Some senior Judges are upset if the junior Judge on the bench asks questions to the lawyer or makes a comment directly, and they insist that if the junior has a question to ask, or some comment to make, he should tell it to the senior Judge, and the senior would do it. But I do not see why the junior Judge cannot do so directly.
When I had recently become a Judge of the Supreme Court, and was the juniormost Judge of the Court, I was sitting with a very senior Judge. In some cases I asked questions directly to the lawyer, or stated my views directly. This apparently so upset my senior that soon thereafter my bench was changed. Perhaps he went to the Chief Justice and told him that he would not like to sit with me.
Justice Mishra expressed her gratitude to me. She said that no senior Judge in the High Court or Supreme Court had ever spoken to her in such a gracious manner. Thereafter, our bench functioned very smoothly, and I would always respect her views, and sometimes even changed my view when I realized that she was right and I was wrong.