A standing ovation: Delhi High Court bids farewell to Justice Muralidhar
Justice Muralidhar celebrated his last day with the Delhi High Court today. In a moving ceremony, his peers and juniors gave him a rousing standing ovation. The outgoing judge concluded his speech saying, “When justice has to triumph, it will triumph ... Be with the truth - Justice will be done."
In a moving ceremony, the Delhi High Court organised a fitting farewell to Justice Muralidhar today.
The highlight of the event was when the members of the Bar together gave the outgoing judge a standing ovation.
“Coming to this court was an unbelievable irony”, he said on his last day here, bidding goodbye to his high court colleagues. He then went on to recount his journey to the bench.
Imagine this - a boy, hoping to do a masters in science, used to play cricket with the son of a lawyer. This duo used to leave their cricket bags in the lawyers chamber, and fate intervened. Justice Muralidhar, influenced by his friend’s father, chose law.
He began his career in 1984, beginning a law practice in Chennai. He shifted to Delhi to practice at the Supreme Court and the Delhi High Court in 1987.
Speaking of his path to the Delhi High Court bench, he recounted his early days in the capital, when he was a junior under Former Attorney General G Ramaswamy.
While he was speaking of this time of his life, the President of the Delhi High Court Bar Association, Mohit Matur added that Justice Muralidhar was an exceptional junior at G Ramaswamy's chamber.
He concluded his speech saying, “When justice has to triumph, it will triumph ... Be with the truth - Justice will be done."
On his last day serving the Delhi High Court, Justice Muralidhar was third senior most judge in the Delhi High Court after Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice G S Sistani. His transfer, recently notified, has been mired in controversy.
While hearing the Delhi violence case, he was transferred on a day when he expressed anguish over the Delhi Police’s failure to intervene effectively in instances of alleged hate speech by three BJP leaders.
The government has said the transfer had nothing to do with any case as a recommendation to this effect was already made by the Supreme Court Collegium and the judge had also given his consent.
And yet, this move raised eyebrows across the country. Amartya Sen recently said that the transfer is natural to raise questions.
"I personally know him. It is natural to raise questions but I can't pass any judgment," Sen told reporters.
The government should have been a "little careful" while issuing the "midnight" order transferring Delhi High Court Judge S Muralidhar to the Punjab and Haryana High Court, former Chief Justice of India, had said Justice K G Balakrishnan.
Talking to PTI, Justice Balakrishnan said it was a mere coincidence that the final transfer notification was issued on the day when he passed the order on the hate speeches because his shift to had been already contemplated by the Supreme Court collegium a week ago.
"When the situation in the country is so volatile and media and others are active the government should have been little careful while issuing such midnight transfer order as there are chances of people thinking otherwise. The people could interpret differently," Justice Balakrishnan said.
An NGO — The Campaign for Judicial Accountability and Reforms (CJAR) — condemned the transfer of Justice Muralidhar, claiming the move was to punish an "honest and courageous" judicial officer.
The government's notification stated that the president took the decision after consulting the Chief Justice of India. It, however, does not mention when Justice Muralidhar has to take charge of his office.
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said Justice Muralidhar was transferred following the recommendation of the SC Collegium, asserting that a "well-settled process" was followed.
CJAR said it knows that Justice Muralidhar's transfer was recommended by the SC Collegium on February 12 but the rushed manner in which the notification has been issued by the government cannot be ignored.
"That Justice Muralidhar had raised tough questions about the conduct of sitting ministers of the Union government, MLAs and other high officials seems to have influenced this move," it said in a statement.
CJAR claimed that judges have been given reasonable time in transfer orders, but Justice Muralidhar's was with immediate effect. This highlights the "punitive nature" of this move, it said.
"If this was indeed a transfer with the consent of the judge, no element of consideration seems to have been given by the Centre in ordering him to make the move," the NGO said.
It claimed that Justice Muralidhar's transfer resembles the "punitive transfers" of high court judges during the Emergency. The move resembles the "petty vindictiveness" of the government, the NGO alleged.