Why was Justice Muralidhar denied the usual 14 days to join his post?

Why has the Govt denied Justice S. Muralidhar customary 14 days for joining his new post? Could the ministry have been oblivious of the fact that the judge was in the middle of an important hearing?


NH Web Desk

Hours after Justice S Muralidhar grilled the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta and Delhi Police officials for negligence and dereliction of duty in coping with Delhi riots, the Centre notified his transfer, recommended by the Supreme Court on February 12.

The notification omitted any mention of the usual 14 days given to judges on transfer, giving the impression that it was with immediate effect. And true enough, Justice Muralidhar bade goodbye to the Delhi High Court on Thursday, the morning after the Centre issued the notification.

Didn’t the Union Law Minister know

  • · That Justice Muralidhar was hearing an important case related to rioting in Delhi after being asked to do so by the Chief Justice?

  • Surely the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, while assigning the case to Justice Muralidhar, did not expect him to be given marching orders before the final orders in the case?
  • Why was Justice Muralidhar not allowed the customary 14 days to join his new post ? The notification issued by the Law Ministry on Wednesday late night, omitted any mention of the customary 14 days, allowed apparently in the past six transfers at least. Why?
  • Surely, heavens would not have fallen if the notification had been issued three days later on Saturday, since it had not been notified for 14 days already?

The Union Law Minister, who is always prim and proper, has claimed that the transfer was notified following the decision of the SC collegium; that Justice Muralidhar’s consent had been taken by the collegium before transferring him and that all due processes had been followed.

Since the Law Minister places so much emphasis on ‘ due process’ and ‘consent’, one is tempted to ask if the Ministry sought the judge’s consent or enquired about his convenience before notifying the transfer ?

The Law Minister can say that this is not part of the ‘process’ but then taking ‘consent’ of the judge has always been a convention and not on the rule books.

Justice S. Muralidhar of the Delhi High Court was ‘asked’ by the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court to hear at his residence on Tuesday night to hear petitions seeking police help to transport stranded victims of rioting in Delhi to the hospital.

The judge held the hearing at his residence post-midnight and made police officers speak to the victims and doctors at the hospital. He also directed the police to reach out to the victims and ensure that they reach the hospital.

The next day the judge held the hearing in court, received a status report from Delhi Police and directed them to register FIRs against BJP leaders who had instigated mobs and delivered provocative speeches.

The same night the Law Ministry notified his transfer to the Punjab & Haryana High Court. The Supreme Court collegium had recommended the controversial transfer on February 12. It was controversial because normally High Court judges are transferred only on their elevation as Chief Justice to some other High Court. In other exceptional cases, High Court judges are transferred only by way of punishment.

Justice Muralidhar, who has been a judge in the Delhi High Court for the past 13 years, has been, by all accounts, an outstanding judge and was known to stand his ground. Having taken a stand against the government in several cases, his transfer, therefore, evoked widespread condemnation and the High Court Bar Association observed a strike in protest.

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