Late on Wednesday night, the notice to transfer Delhi High Court’s judge, Justice S Muralidhar to the Punjab and Haryana High Court was issued by the Central Government. This came hours after he had called upon a meeting on Wednesday, grilling the centre, the state government and the Delhi Police over the violence in the national capital that has left over 30 people dead and hundreds of others injured.
Official sources have cited it to be a routine transfer recommended by a Supreme Court collegium two weeks ago, on February 12. The transfer notification does not give any time frame for the judge to join his new post. A 14-day period is usually given to the judge in such transfers, as was the case in the previous six transfers. He will be joining the Punjab and Haryana High Court on March 6.
“In exercise of the power conferred by clause (1) of Article 222 of the Constitution of India, the President, after consultation with the Chief Justice of India, is pleased to transfer Shri Justice S Muralidhar, Judge of the Delhi High Court, as a Judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and to direct him to assume charge of his office in the Punjab and Haryana High Court,” the government notification read.
The notification came barely hours after a Bench comprising Justice Muralidhar and Justice Talwant Singh had criticized the Delhi Police heavily for not having registered a case against BJP leaders like Kapil Mishra, Parvesh Verma, Abhay Verma and Union Minister Anurag Thakur for making hate speeches during their rallies. “We cannot let another 1984-like event happen in this country,” he said while asking the governments at the centre and state in Delhi to work together in combating the violence that has engulfed the national capital for several days, leaving scores of people dead, injured and homeless.
The hearing was on a petition seeking First Information Reports (FIRs) against those who incited and participated in the violence in North East Delhi. During the hearing on Wednesday, videos of the hate speeches by these four BJP leaders were played. The bench asked why no FIRs were filed by the police against these leaders for instigating the violence, while 11 FIRs in connection with the incidents of violence, including arson and stone pelting, had already been registered. He told the Delhi Police chief to “seriously consider the consequences” of not registering the FIRs.
The judge had asked the police to appear on Thursday with a status report. After his sudden transfer however, the case, who’s hearing has been shifted to later in March, is now listed before the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, Justice Dhirubhai Naranbhai Patel. The Supreme Court had recommended the transfer last week, along with that of two other judges. It was met with protests by The Delhi High Court Bar Association. A notification that came late on Wednesday night, issued by the Ministry of Law and Justice announced that the President has taken the decision after consulting the Chief Justice of India.
Among those who criticized Justice Muralidhar’s transfer were Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. “The midnight transfer of Justice Muralidhar isn’t shocking given the current dispensation, but it is certainly sad and shameful. Millions of Indians have faith in a resilient and upright judiciary, the government’s attempts to muzzle justice & break their faith are deplorable,” tweeted Priyanka Gandhi.