In protest against the transfer of Justice S Muralidhar to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, the Delhi High Court Bar Association (DHBCA) asked its members to abstain from work on Thursday.
"Unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms, the Delhi High Court Bar Association condemns the said transfer effected by the collegium of the Honourable 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," a release by the Bar Association said. The statement expressed hope that the Supreme Court Collegium revisits the issue and recalls its recommendation to transfer Muralidhar. It described the transfer as “a rarest of rare case” which has put “the majesty of our revered institution” at stake.
Announced on Wednesday, the recommendations of the Supreme Court Collegium included transfers of Justice Muralidhar from the Delhi High Court to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Justice Ranjit More from the Bombay High Court to the Meghalaya High Court, Justice Ravi Vijaykumar Malimath from the Karnataka High Court and Justice Malimath from the Uttarakhand High Court.
The Law Ministry has the option to accept or reject the recommendations of the SC Collegium, currently led by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde and comprising Justices NV Ramana, Arun Mishra, RF Nariman and R Banumathi. Additionally, Muralidhar and the other two justices have the option of requesting the Collegium to reconsider its decision.
Justice Muralidhar’s transfer was discussed in December 2018 and January 2019 but halted after judges in the Collegium, then headed by erstwhile Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, advised against it. “Issues with Justice Muralidhar have been arising ever since he has been passing pro-citizen and pro-litigant orders. There have been orders where Justice Muralidhar has castigated the agencies for being high-handed in their approach. He was seen to be inconvenient to these agencies. Whenever any pro-citizen or pro-litigant order was passed, these agencies would rush to the SC the very next day to get a stay as if the heavens were falling,” a senior lawyer alleged, according to a report in The Print. “This was only when he was trying to secure the life and liberty of individuals.”
RTI, Section 377 among Justice Muralidhar's notable judgments
Justice Muralidhar began his law practice in Chennai in September 1984 and shifted to Delhi to practice at the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court in 1987. He was appointed as a judge of the Delhi High Court in 2006 and is currently the third senior-most judge in the Delhi High Court, according to LiveLaw. He was active as a lawyer for the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee and was its member for two terms.
He had been part of the Bench that delivered many notable judgments, including the one that decriminalised homosexuality in 2009 and the January 2010 order that the Chief Justice of India’s office came within the purview of the RTI. He worked pro bono in several cases, including for the Bhopal Gas tragedy victims and those displaced by the Narmada dam. Justice Muralidhar had also passed a judgment convicting Uttar Pradesh Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel in the Hashimpura massacre.
In another judgment by Justice Muralidhar, Congress leader Sajjan Kumar was held guilty in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case. He had noted that there was “a familiar pattern of mass killings in Mumbai in 1993, in Gujarat in 2002, in Kandhamal, Odisha, in 2008, in Muzaffarnagar in UP in 2013” where minorities were being targeted. "The criminals responsible for the mass crimes have enjoyed political patronage and managed to evade prosecution and punishment," the judgment read.
Setting aside the transit remand issued against activist Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima Koregaon case, he noted that every minute a person remains in custody was a "matter of concern" and questioned the legality of his arrest. In 2018, Justice Muralidhar also turned down a PIL by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy seeking an independent probe in the Sunanda Pushkar case. "The court is left with a distinct impression that this is perhaps a textbook example of a 'political interest litigation' dressed up as a PIL," the Bench had said.
Justice Muralidhar is also among the few judges to have broken the convention of being addressed as "My Lord" or "Your Lordship". He is slated to retire in 2023 when he will turn 62.
Last year, Chief Justice of Madras High Court Justice Vijaya Kamlesh Tahilramani had requested the SC Collegium to reconsider its decision of transferring her to Meghalaya High Court. After the collegium rejected the appeal, she resigned.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Feb 20, 2020 14:02:43 IST