High Court’s ‘Kohinoor’ – Justice Muralidhar Given Grand Farewell
Justice Muralidhar will take oath as the judge of Punjab & Haryana High Court on Friday, 6 March.
Justice Muralidhar on Thursday, 5 March, his last day at the Delhi High Court, sought to clarify speculations surrounding his controversial transfer to the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The transfer, which came after his comments in a Delhi High Court hearing on 26 February on the provocative speeches by BJP leaders, had created furore last month. On the evening of 26 February, the Ministry of Law and Justice notified his transfer to Chandigarh.
Addressing the gathering, Justice Muralidhar clarified that he had been informed in advance of the Collegium’s decision to transfer him, and that he had accepted the transfer.
The CJI's letter dated 14 February was delivered to Justice Muralidhar on 17 February, the day when the family's pet labrador Sakhi breathed her last, he said.
“In my case, the collegium’s decision was communicated to me by the CJI on 17 February 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 any way, I was fine with moving to the Punjab and Haryana High Court.Justice S Muralidhar
“I therefore clarified to the CJI that I did not object to the proposal. An explanation for my transfer reached the press...on 20 February quoting 'sources in the Supreme Court collegium', confirming what has been indicated to me a couple of days earlier,” he said.
‘26 February Was My Longest Working Day’
Muralidhar said that 26 February was perhaps the longest working day of his life as a judge of the Delhi High Court, where he has spent 14 years on the bench.
He had begun that day soon after midnight, conducting an urgent hearing on a petition to ensure ambulances and emergency services could access victims of the violence, and then later conducted a hearing into the plea asking for registration of FIRs, by activist Harsh Mander.
He said it began at 12:30 am with a sitting at his residence with Justice AJ Bhambhani, under the orders of Justice GS Sistani, to deal with a PIL filed by Rahul Roy seeking safe passage of ambulances carrying the injured riot victims.
“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 26 February and that I should take up the matter,” he said.
“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," he said.
In the 26 February hearing, Justice Muralidhar had come down heavily on the police for not initiating action against some BJP leaders who had given hate speech ahead of the violence that rocked northeast Delhi, and instructed them to take a “conscious decision” on FIRs against Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur and all those who had made provocative speeches within a day.
‘Verdict on Homosexuality Most Moving Moment’: Muralidhar
The most moving moment for Justice S Muralidhar as a judge of the Delhi High Court was on 2 July, 2009, when a bench involving him scrapped the penal provision which criminalised sexual intercourse between two consenting adults of same sex.
Muralidhar said at the time of pronouncing the judgement, he and the then Chief Justice of the high court AP Shah knew that something “irreversible” had happened.
Going back to nearly 11 years, Justice Muralidhar said, “The most moving moment as a judge was in this very court sitting where I am today when on 2 July, 2009, (then) Chief Justice A P Shah and I delivered our judgement in NAZ Foundation.
“Even as we held that consensual same sex between adults in private was not a crime, the relief that swept through the courtroom amongst those waiting to hear the verdict was palpable. Many broke down right here in front of us,” he said.
The judgement delivered by them was set aside by the Supreme Court on 11 December, 2013. But in September 2018, the apex court dealing with the issue on a fresh writ petition, came to the findings that were delivered by Justices Shah and Muralidhar.
Justice Muralidhar ended the speech saying the notification which was issued close to midnight of 26 February did two things.
“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,” he said, following a standing ovation by all the judges and the gathering, including his family members, former judges, lawyers, court staff and media persons.
Justice Muralidhar will take oath as the judge of the Punjab & Haryana High Court on Friday, 6 March.
‘Dignified and Just’: Senior Judges, Lawyers, Laud Muralidhar
Senior judges and lawyers applauded as Justice Muralidhar and his family entered the Chief Justice's Court.
Justice Muralidhar's mother, wife Usha Ramanathan, former Delhi High Court chief justice AP Shah, senior advocates Shanti Bhushan, HS Phoolka and former Delhi University VC Upendra Baxi were also present.
Additional Solicitor General Maninder Acharya addressed the court and said, “arguing before Justice Muralidhar was not easy.. it sometimes took the last ounce of energy to persuade you. But it was always pleasurable.. whether we succeeded or not, you were also dignified and just.”
The Secretary of the Delhi High Court Bar Association, Abhijat expressed his gratitude for Justice Muralidhar’s time at the court, and said that thankfully, the “Kohinoor” of the High Court would be “only going a few 100 kilometres away.”
Justice Muralidhar also gave a speech to a packed audience in the main building of the court, which was thronged by lawyers who had practiced in the court.
“The future of law and courts are the subjects that I am interested in. The moment I conclude a case, reverse a wrong conviction, the cry for justice is loud in every roster of every judge.”Justice Muralidhar
When the Chief Justice of the Delhi HC, DN Patel ended his speech thanking Justice Muralidhar for his service, the lawyers and Judges present there gave a standing ovation to him. Justice Muralidhar, for his part, reminded everyone of the importance of truth to justice.
“When justice has to triumph, it will triumph ... Be with the truth, justice will be done.”Justice Muralidhar
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