On Thursday, Justice S Muralidhar,58, cleared the air revolving around the controversy of his transfer to the Punjab and Haryana High Court from the Delhi High Court saying that he had replied to the CJI (Chief Justice of India) S A Bobde’s communication telling him that he has no problem with the proposal.
The controversy erupted when the Centre issued a notification of Justice Muralidhar’s transfer close to midnight on the 26th February, the same day when a bench of the Delhi High Court headed by him had grilled the Delhi Police Force for failing to take any action against the 3 BJP leaders for their alleged hate speech which was said to be the reason which led to violence in the NorthEast Delhi.
Justice Muralidhar received a grand farewell which was attended by Judges and Advocates on Thursday.
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During the farewell he said that he wants to clear the confusion that is pertaining to his transfer to the Punjab and Haryana High Court and narrated the sequence of events from the time of receiving CJI S A Bobde till 26th February.
In a meeting held on the 12th February by the Supreme Court Collegium it was recommended that Justice Muralidhar to be transferred to Punjab and Haryana High Court. The collegium was headed by CJI S A Bobde.
Explaining the transfer, Justice Muralidhar told that the 5 member collegium sends a recommendation to the Centre which recommends which judge of a high court should be transferred to another one. The judge concerned is not at this stage under orders of transfers as that only happens when the collegium’s recommendations becomes a notification.
Justice Muralidhar said, “In my case, the collegium’s decision was communicated to me by the CJI on February 17 by a letter which sought my response. I acknowledged receipt of the letter, I was then asked to clarify what I meant. As I saw it, if I was to be transferred from the Delhi High Court anyway, I was fine with moving to the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
He added, “I, therefore, clarified to the CJI that I did not object to the proposal. An explanation for my transfer reached the press…on February 20 quoting ‘sources in the Supreme Court collegium’, confirming what has been indicated to me a couple of days earlier,”.
The CJI’s letter which was dated 14th February was delivered to Justice Muralidhar on the 17th of February. He said that 26th of February could have been the longest working day of his entire career as a Judge of the Delhi High Court where he spent 14 years on the bench.
He said the day began at half past midnight with a sitting at his residence with Justice A J Bhambhani under the direction of Justice G S Sistani, to deal with a PIL (Public Interest Litigation) filed by Rahul Roy who seeks for a safe passage of the ambulances which were carrying the injured riot victims.
He said, “When I received a call at my residence from the lawyer for the petitioner, I first called Justice Sistani to ask what should be done, knowing that the Chief Justice (CJ) was on leave. Justice Sistani explained that he too was officially on leave the whole of February 26 and that I should take up the matter.
“This fact is stated in the order passed by the bench after the hearing. Later that day, upon urgent mentioning, as the de facto CJ’s bench, Justice Talwant Singh and I took up another fresh PIL on the CJ’s board seeking registration of FIRs for hate speeches. After the orders passed on that day, the above two PILs remained on the CJ’s Board,”.
As he concluded his speech, Justice Muralidhar said that the notification which was issued by the Centre did two things.
He said, “First, it transferred me to Punjab and Haryana High Court. Second, it appointed me to a position from where I can never be transferred, or removed and in which I shall always be proud to remain. A ‘former judge’ of arguably the best high court in the country. The High Court of Delhi,”.
After his speech, he received a standing ovation from the Judges, Advocates, his Family members, Court Staff, and Media People.
Earlier that day, a farewell was also organised by the Delhi High Court Bar Association.
The Delhi High Court Bar Association organised a farewell high tea for Justice Dr. Muralidhar on his transfer to P&H HC. The gathering was attended by multiple lawyers. pic.twitter.com/11dypifCr0— अरशद खान / Arshad Khan / أرشد خان (@IncArshadrewa) March 5, 2020
Justice concluded his address by saying, “When justice has to triumph, it will triumph … Be with the truth – Justice will be done” at the gathering at the Bar Association’s function.
Justice Muralidhar’s mother, wife Usha Ramanathan, former Chief justice of Delhi high Court A P Shah, Senior Advocate Shanti Bhushan, and even the former Vice Chancellor of Delhi university, V C Upendra Baxi were present at the function that was organised by the court.
As Justice S Muralidar bid adieu, the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, D N Patel, said that this was an occasion which came with a saddening effect and Justice Muralidhar’s absence will be felt both personally and institutionally.
Rahul Mehra, Delhi Government Standing Counsel (Criminal) termed Justice Muralidhar as “highly intellectual, courageous, upright and incorruptible judge” and even sang the Bengali song ‘ekla chalo re’ to describe him.
Mehra said that he too, along with the Delhi High Court Bar Association strongly condemn the transfer of Justice Muralidhar.
In 2018, a controversy surfaced when Justice S Muralidhar quashed the transit remand order given by a trial court and directed the release of Gautam Navlakha, a rights activist, from house arrest in Korehaon bhima violence case.
Another notable cases of Justice Muralidar are:
In 2018, Justice Muralidhar he awarded a sentence of life imprisonment to Sajjan Kumar, Congress leader, in one of the 1984 anti-Sikh riot cases.
In October of 2018, he headed a bench where he convicted 16 ex-police personnel of Uttar Pradesh in the Hashimpura Massacre case.