Honest Judge, Justice S Muralidhar, a Victim of Vindictive Politics

Date:

Rashaé K | Clarion India

NEW DELHI — Many seem to have overlooked a news item on Justice S Muralidhar. His name has not been cleared by the Narendra Modi-led BJP government for the position of the Chief Justice of Madras High Court even after the Supreme Court Collegium’s recommendation.

The government approved the transfer of Justice Pankaj Mithal, Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court to Rajasthan High Court as Chief Justice as recommended by the Collegium. But there is no word on Justice Muralidhar. Why?

The answer lies in Justice Muralidhar’s earlier transfer from the Delhi High Court to the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The unceremonious midnight transfer faced a lot of criticism from the Delhi Bar Association. What had prompted the government to effect the hasty transfer of an upright judge was his order for police action over alleged inflammatory speeches by the BJP’s Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma, Abhay Vema, and Kapil Mishra during the Delhi riots.

Barely a day after he issued the order came his transfer letter in February 2020. In the wake of the Northeast Delhi riots, he had said, “We cannot let another 1984-like event happen in this country.”

In a sharp reaction to the transfer of the judge, the Bar Association, in a statement, had said, “Unequivocally and in the strongest possible terms, the Delhi High Court Bar Association condemns the said transfer effected by the collegium of the 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.”

Lawyers in the Delhi High Court abstained from work for a day to register their protest against the transfer of the chief justice and an international group of lawyers wrote to then-President Ram Nath Kovind about the issue. The government justified the move as routine, recommended by the Supreme Court collegium on February 12, and his consent had been taken, as is the norm.

Now, after over two years, the controversy came a full circle when the Central government once again took an adversarial position vis-à-vis Justice Muralidhar. It seems the government’s aversion towards the judge is still intact. It couldn’t digest a judge questioning the role of its ministers in the riots. If the Delhi Police was not acting in connivance with the government, and if the government was fair in its dealings, why would it transfer an honest judge in a huff?

The government’s action is understandable as it had to save its own skin when questions were being raised on the role of its ministers, but what could be the justification for the fresh offensive other than the vendetta the government is nursing against Justice Murlidhar? Which democracy tolerates such a vindictive attitude of an elected government?

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Photo: Justice S. Muralidhar (Livlaw)

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