Centre transfers Justice S Muralidhar to Punjab and Haryana HC based on SC's 12 Feb direction; order comes on day he pulled up Delhi Police

  • The Centre on Wednesday issued a transfer of Justice S Muralidhar of the Delhi High Court to the Punjab and Haryana High Court

  • The notification of Justice Muralidhar's transfer, who is the third-highest judge of the Delhi High Court, comes about two weeks after the recommendation by the Supreme Court collegium on 12 February

  • Just last week, day-to-day work had come to a standstill at Delhi High Court as lawyers had abstained from work to protest against the transfer of Muralidhar to the Punjab and Haryana High Court

Ignoring protests by the Delhi High Court Bar Association, the Centre transferred Justice S Muralidhar of the Delhi High Court to the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The notification of Justice Muralidhar's transfer, who is the third-highest judge of the Delhi High Court, comes about two weeks after the recommendation by the Supreme Court collegium on 12 February.

"In exercise of the power conferred by Clause (1) of Article 222 of the Constitution of India, the President, after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, is pleased to transfer Justice S Muralidhar, Judge of the Delhi High Court, as a Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and to direct him to assume charge of his office in the Punjab and Haryana High Court," a release from the Ministry of Law and Justice on Wednesday evening said.

The Supreme Court had recommended his transfer two weeks ago (12 February). However, the Centre accepted the collegium's recommendation only on Wednesday, hours after Justice Muralidhar pulled up the Delhi Police for not acting against BJP leaders who made hate speeches ahead of Delhi riots.

On Wednesday, a high court bench headed by Justice Muralidhar passed a series of orders with regard to the violence in northeast Delhi and said that "another 1984-like situation cannot be allowed to happen in the city under its watch."

According to Scroll.in the petition was originally scheduled to be heard by Chief Justice DN Patel on an urgent basis on Wednesday. However, he was not present in court for the day, and nor was the next senior-most judge, Justice GS Sistani. As a result, the matter was mentioned before Justice Muralidhar on Wednesday morning, as he was the most senior judge of the court present.

As the petition had been marked as urgent, Justice Muralidhar agreed to hear it and issued notice to the Delhi authorities.

As speculation rises over the timing of the transfer, Congress leaders Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi took to microblogging site Twitter on Thursday to take an apparent jibe at the Centre.

Judge Loya, who was hearing the high-profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case of Gujarat, had died of cardiac arrest in Nagpur on 1 December 1, 2014, when he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague's daughter. The Supreme Court had held that Loya had died of "natural causes" rejecting the PILs seeking an SIT probe into his death. The Supreme Court, in fact, questioned the petitioners' motive. A bench headed by then chief justice Dipak Misra said the attempt of the petitioners was to create prejudice and to malign the dignity of the judges.

The issue of Loya's death came under the spotlight after his sister raised suspicion about the circumstances surrounding the judge's demise. The untimely death of the judge was alleged to be linked to the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case, in which Home Minister Amit Shah was an accused. Loya was hearing the matter until before his death; Shah was later discharged from the case.

Meanwhile, last week, work came to a standstill in Delhi High Court as lawyers abstained from work to protest against the transfer of Muralidhar.

The Delhi High Court Bar Association said, "Unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms, the Delhi High Court Bar Association condemns the said transfer effected by the collegium of the Supreme Court. Such transfers are not only detrimental to our noble institution but also tend to erode and dislodge the faith of the common litigant in the justice dispensation system." It said that the association hopes that the collegium revisits the issue and recalls the move to transfer the justice.

Before being appointed as a judge in the Delhi High Court in 2006, Muralidhar practised law in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court.

With inputs from ANI

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Updated Date: Feb 27, 2020 16:51:42 IST