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‘Midnight’ Notification on Transfer of Judge Who Reprimanded Delhi Police Raises Eyebrows

The late evening notification came on the day when a bench headed by Justice S Muralidhar expressed ‘anguish’ over Delhi Police's failure to register FIRs against alleged hate speeches by 3 BJP leaders.
S Muralidhar

New Delhi: On the day a bench headed by Delhi High Court Judge S Muralidhar slammed the Delhi Police and expressed "anguish" over the Delhi Police's failure to register FIRs against alleged hate speeches by three BJP leaders, he was served a transfer notice on Wednesday late evening.

Justice Muralidhar was hearing the Delhi violence case, which has so far claimed 34 lives. He was transferred to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, days after the Supreme Court collegium made the recommendation.

Accusing the government of playing “revenge politics” against the judiciary, the Congress on Thursday questioned the 'sudden' transfer of 

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted, "Remembering the brave Judge Loya, who wasn't transferred."

Loya, who was hearing the high-profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case of Gujarat, died of cardiac arrest in Nagpur on December 1, 2014, when he had gone to attend the wedding of a colleague's daughter.

"The midnight transfer of Justice Muralidhar isn't shocking given the current dispensation, but it is certainly sad & shameful," Priyanka Gandhi tweeted, adding that "Millions of Indians have faith in a resilient & upright judiciary, the government's attempts to muzzle justice & break their faith are deplorable.”

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) termed Muralidhar's transfer as a "selective response" to his court orders in which he rapped the city police for "trying to shield" BJP leaders who made "hate speeches".

The Left party demanded the government keep the transfer order, notified late Wednesday night, in abeyance to reinforce the confidence of the people in the judicial system.

The CPI (M) said in a statement that the transfer was recommended by the Supreme Court collegium, but it has been protested against by the Delhi High Court Bar Association for well-argued judicial-administrative considerations.

"Post-haste implementation appears to be a selective response for what unfolded in the Delhi High Court yesterday. The fact remains that the Bench headed by Justice Muralidhar called the bluff of the Delhi police in trying to shield the hate speeches of top BJP leaders in Delhi in the course of the Delhi assembly election and after.

"Politburo of the CPI(M) urges the Government that in these times of acute confidence deficit, the transfer order must be kept in abeyance to reinforce the confidence of the people in the judicial system of the country," it said.

The notification, however, does not mention when Justice Muralidhar has to take the charge of his office, PTI reported.

Last week, the Supreme Court Collegium had intimated its proposal to transfer Justice Muralidhar from the Delhi High Court to the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

The Collegium’s decision had been flayed by the Delhi High Court Bar Association, which had passed a resolution requesting its members to abstain from work on February 20, the day after the Collegium statement was made public, according to Bar & Bench.

The ‘sudden’ transfer of the judge comes close on the heels of the bench reprimanding the Delhi Police for its handling to the Delhi violence, which has led to large-scale destruction of property, arson and rioting, claiming at least 34 lives.

In fact, in an emergency sitting on late Tuesday night, Justice Muralidhar and Justice A.J. Bhambhani following an urgent plea from counsel representing the Al Hind Hospital in Mustafabad, North East Delhi, which had asked the court to direct the Delhi Police to help it shift over 20 persons injured in the riots to the government-run GTB hospital.

The police did not respond to its call for help and only escorted the patients out when the high court bench ordered them to do so, a report in The Wire said.

Earlier, in another hearing, Justice Muralidhar had observed that: “ We cannot let another 1984 scenario happen in this city, not under the watch of this court.” He, along with Justice Talwinder Singh has called for more confidence building measures by the state and Central government, asking its functionaries to personally meet the victims and their families.

The Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, however, said the judge was transferred following the recommendation of the Supreme Court collegium, asserting that a "well-settled process" was followed.

"Transfer of Hon'ble Justice Muralidhar was done pursuant to the recommendation dated February 12 of the Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice of India," Prasad wrote on Twitter.

He said while transferring a judge, his or her consent is taken. "The well-settled process have been followed," the minister added.

(With inputs from PTI)

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