Law Ministry Notifies Justice Muralidhar’s Transfer From Delhi HC
Justice Muralidhar’s transfer to the Punjab & Haryana High Court has been approved by the President.
The Ministry of Law and Justice on Wednesday, 26 February notified the transfer of Justice S Muralidhar from the Delhi High Court to the Punjab & Haryana High Court.
The notification confirms that the President has, after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, transferred Justice Muralidhar to the P&H High Court, and has directed him to assume charge of his office.
The Supreme Court Collegium had recommended his transfer on 12 February. When the decision became public on 19 February, it was widely condemned, including by the Delhi High Court Bar Association, whose members abstained from work on 20 February in protest.
The DHCBA resolution, a copy of which has been forwarded to CJI SA Bobde, argued that transfers like that of Justice Muralidhar “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.” As a result, the lawyers urged the Collegium to reconsider its decision.
The move raised eyebrows as a judge of Justice Muralidhar’s seniority (he will turn 59 this year and HC judges retire at 62) is normally only transferred to become a chief justice of a new high court – which isn’t the case here.
A previous attempt to transfer Justice Muralidhar had been thwarted by members of the Collegium.
On 28 January 2019, The Indian Express reported that meetings of the Collegium had been held in December 2018 and January 2019 in which the transfer of Justice Muralidhar was suggested. LiveLaw reported that Justice AK Sikri (since retired) had strongly opposed the move.
Who is Justice S Muralidhar?
Justice Muralidhar is perhaps best known for ruling (along with Justice AP Shah) that Section 377 of the IPC was unconstitutional in the Naz Foundation case back in 2009, a decision that was cited appreciatively by the Supreme Court when it finally held the same in 2018.
He is also known for his strong judgments against communal violence and invasion of civil liberties. He has authored judgments which include convicting the 16 UP PAC constables for the 1986 Hashimpura mass killing. He also led the bench that convicted the former Congress MP Sajjan Kumar for his role in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
On the night of 25-26 February, he conducted an urgent midnight hearing on a request for ambulances and emergency services to be ensured access to areas in north-east Delhi affected by the ongoing violence. His urgent directions to the police led to prompt action, and he expanded on the directions in a subsequent hearing on 26 February, to ensure medical treatment and helplines for those affected by the violence.
On 26 February, he directed the police to take a ‘conscious decision’ on whether or not to register FIRs against BJP leaders Kapil MIshra, Parvesh Verma and Anurag Thakur (and any others) who had made provocative speeches in Delhi, with the advice of Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.
Justice S Muralidhar started his legal career as an advocate in Chennai in 1984. He moved to Delhi in 1987 and began practicing in the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court.
He was well-known for his pro bono work at the Supreme Court, where he represented victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and people displaced due to the development of the Narmada dams. He was appointed amicus curiae – an expert to assist the court – in a number of PIL cases, and he also represented convicts on death row.
After stints as counsel for the National Human Rights Commission and the Election Commission of India, he was appointed as a judge of the Delhi High Court in May 2006. He had also served as a part time member of the Law Commission of India for almost four years prior to that.
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