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NGO condemns midnight transfer of Justice S Muralidhar


Press Trust of India New Delhi
An NGO on Thursday condemned the midnight transfer of Justice S Muralidhar from the Delhi High Court to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, claiming that the move was to punish an "honest and courageous" judicial officer.
Justice Muralidhar was hearing the Delhi violence case and a notification came late in the evening on Wednesday when a bench headed by him expressed "anguish" over the Delhi Police's failure to register FIRs against alleged hate speeches by three BJP leaders.
The notification, which was issued by the Ministry of Law and Justice, stated that the president took the decision after consulting the Chief Justice of India. It, however, does not mention when Justice Muralidhar has to take charge of his office.
The Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) said the transfer has nothing to do with "public interest" and everything to do with "punishing" an honest and courageous judicial officer for simply carrying out his constitutional duties.
Earlier in the day, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Justice Muralidhar was transferred following the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium, asserting that a "well-settled process" was followed.
CJAR said it knows that Justice Muralidhar's transfer was recommended by the Supreme Court collegium on February 12 but the rushed manner in which the notification has been issued by the Union government cannot be ignored.
The fact that the notification for Justice Muralidhar's transfer was issued in the evening after he held the Delhi Police and the central government accountable for the Delhi riots tells the true nature of his transfer, the NGO claimed.
"That Justice Muralidhar had raised tough questions about the conduct of sitting ministers of the Union government, MLAs and other high officials seems to have influenced this move," it said in a statement.
CJAR claimed that judges have been given reasonable time in transfer orders, but Justice Muralidhar's was with immediate effect. This highlights the "punitive nature" of this move, it said.
"If this was indeed a transfer with the consent of the judge, no element of consideration seems to have been given by the Centre in ordering him to make the move," the NGO said.
It claimed that Justice Muralidhar's transfer resembles the "punitive transfers" of high court judges during the Emergency. The move resembles the "petty vindictiveness" of the government, the NGO alleged.
The Supreme Court collegium, in a meeting on February 12, had recommended transfer of Justice Muralidhar to Punjab and Haryana High Court.
The collegium, headed by Chief Justice of India S A Bobde, in a meeting on February 12, had also recommended transfer of Bombay High Court Judge Justice Ranjit V More to Meghalaya High Court.
Justice Muralidhar began his law practice in Chennai in September 1984 and in 1987 shifted to the Supreme Court of India and the Delhi High Court.
He was active as a lawyer for the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee and was its member for two terms.
Justice Muralidhar was counsel for the National Human Rights Commission and the Election Commission of India, and a part-time member of the Law Commission from December 2002 till May 2006 when he was appointed a judge of the Delhi High Court.
His pro bono work includes cases of victims of the Bhopal Gas tragedy and those displaced by the dams on the Narmada river.

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First Published: Feb 27 2020 | 6:42 PM IST

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