SC Collegium Recommends Transfer of Justice Muralidhar From Delhi HC

The Delhi High Court Bar Association has resolved to observe abstinence from work on Thursday to protest the proposal to transfer the judge.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended the transfers of Delhi high court Justice S. Muralidhar, known for his bold and progressive judgments, to the Punjab and Haryana high court.

Justice Muralidhar, who started his law practice in 1984 in Chennai, is currently the third senior-most judge in the Delhi high court, according to LiveLaw. Among the well-known judgments that the judge authored are striking down the criminalisation of homosexuality in 2009, sentencing policemen in the Hashimpura case and convicting Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 anti-Sikh violence case.

After news of the judge’s transfer being recommended became public, the Delhi High Court Bar Association held an emergency meeting of its executive committee on Wednesday and resolved to observe complete abstinence from work the following day to protest the proposal to transfer Justice Muralidhar. The association has also urged the Supreme Court collegium to “revisit and recall” the move.

“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. Such transfers also impede free and fair delivery of justice by the Hon’ble Bench”, the resolution by the Delhi High Court Bar Association stated.

In 1987, Muralidhar shifted to the Supreme Court and the Delhi high court where he was an active lawyer for the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee. He has also been appointed amicus curiae by the Supreme Court in several PIL cases and has worked pro bono for victims of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and those displaced by the Narmada dam. He was appointed as a judge of the Delhi high court in May 2006.

As a judge at the Delhi high court, Justice Muralidhar was a part of several benches that handed down crucial decisions including the 2009 ruling that decriminalised homosexuality in the Naz Foundation case and the 2010 judgement that ruled in favour of disclosing how many Supreme Court judges had declared their assets, in an RTI.

Justice Muralidhar also did away with the convention of judges being addressed as “Your Lordship”.

He also led the division bench that sentenced 16 former policemen to life imprisonment for killing 42 people of a minority community in Hashimpura locality of Uttar Pradesh’s Meerut in 1987. In 2018, the judge delivered the verdict convicting Sajjan Kumar in the 1984 anti-Sikh violence case, overturning the order by a lower court order that had acquitted the Congress leader.

In 2018, a Delhi high court bench including Justice Muralidhar stayed the transit remand of activist Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima Koregaon case. Muralidhar had said that the court could not make out a case against Navlakha from the submitted documents. “It is not possible to make out a case from the documents placed before us,” he said.

Justice Muralidhar was also attacked by RSS ideologue S. Gurumurthy following which contempt proceedings were initiated against the latter by the Delhi high court.

In early 2019, a move by the Supreme Court Collegium, headed by the then Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, to transfer Justice Muralidhar out of the Delhi high court was stalled after members reportedly advised against it, the Indian Express had reported.

Two more judges transferred

Additionally, the collegium on Wednesday also recommended the transfers of Bombay high court judge Justice Ranjit More to the Meghalaya high court and Karnataka high court judge Justice Ravi Vijayakumar Malimath to the Uttarakhand high court.

Justice More, who is the third senior-most judge in the Bombay high court, obtained his law degree from Shivaji University and did his LL.M. from Mumbai University. He was elevated as an additional judge of the Bombay high court in September 2006.

Justice Malimath of the Karnataka high court is currently the second senior-most judge. He was appointed as an additional judge at the high court in February 2008 and was made a permanent judge on February 17, 2010.