Row over HC Judge’s transfer, Centre, Delhi Police get breather

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on February 27, 2020

Justice S Muralidhar

Congress claimed Justice S Muralidhar’s transfer was mala fide; Law Minister retorts Opposition politicising a routine matter

The Opposition pilloried the Centre on Thursday for the prompt notification issued transfering Justice S Muralidhar’s from the Delhi High Court on the day that he warned them against police’s inaction during the riots.

However, the Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad described the transfer as routine and having been previously recommended by the Supreme Court collegium and accused the Opposition of ‘politicising’ the issue.

Time to reply

Meanwhile, on the PIL seeking FIRs against three BJP leaders for making hate speeches preceding the riots in Delhi, the Centre and the Delhi police got four weeks to file their reply. This PIL was being heard by a bench headed by Justice Muralidhar till Wednesday. On Thursday, a bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar impleaded the Centre in the matter and granted it the time they it had earlier sought to file replies in the matter.

Justice Muralidhar had on Wednesday slammed the Delhi Police for its failure to register FIRs against the three BJP leaders over their alleged hate speeches in connection with the Citizenship (Amendment) Act-related violence and had underlined that the city had seen enough violence and it would not witness “another 1984 anti-Sikh riots-like situation” under the Court’s watch.

The bench had also questioned that when the police could register FIRs in connection with incidents of violence, including arson, looting, stone pelting, why did it not show alacrity when it came to the alleged hate speeches by the three BJP leaders — Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Kapil Mishra.

A notification for Justice Muralidhar’s transfer was issued on Wednesday night.

The Law Ministry had, on Wednesday night, issued three separate notifications for the transfer of Justice Muralidhar and two other judges — Justice Ranjit Vasantrao More of the Bombay High Court and Justice Ravi Vijay Kumar Malimath of the Karnataka High Court. Justice Muralidhar was transferred to the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Routine process

The notifications said President Ram Nath Kovind approved the transfers after consulting the Chief Justice of India. The Law Minister said a “well-settled process” was followed in the transfer.

At the BJP party official briefing, senior leader and Union Minister Prakash Javadekar too said the transfer was in line with the recommendation of the Collegium. The recommendation was made on February 12.

The Congress alleged that the transfer of Justice Muralidhar was aimed at saving some BJP leaders in the Delhi violence case and exposed the government’s “intimidation and vendetta politics” against the judiciary.

Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra accused the government of trying to ‘muzzle’ justice and “break people’s faith in an upright judiciary“.

“The midnight transfer of Justice Muralidhar isn’t shocking given the current dispensation, but it is certainly sad and shameful,” she tweeted.

Taking a dig at the government over what he called Muralidhar’s ‘sudden’ transfer, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted, “Remembering the brave Judge Loya, who wasn’t transferred.”

Special CBI judge BH Loya, who was hearing the high-profile Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, died in alleged mysterious circumstances on December 1, 2014.

At a press conference on the issue of Justice Muralidhar’s transfer, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala alleged that the BJP government was “waging a battle of revenge” against the judiciary. He called the transfer a classic case of “hit-and-run injustice” by the government.

“The judge who reminded the Government of its ‘raj dharma’ and initiated and directed action against the BJP leaders making inflammatory statements was transferred overnight from the Delhi High Court,” he said.

Prasad said the people of India have rejected the Congress and “hence it is hell bent on destroying the very institutions India cherishes by constantly attacking them,” he accused.

Referring to a tweet by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on the death of Judge Loya, the Union minister said the Loya judgement had been well-settled by the Supreme Court.

“Those raising questions do not respect the judgment of the apex court pronounced after elaborate arguments. Does Rahul Gandhi consider himself above even the Supreme Court,” he asked.

Prasad also said the government respects the independence of the judiciary.

He charged the party which is the “private property of one family” has no right to lecture about objectionable speeches.

“The family and its cronies have routinely used the harshest words against the Courts, the Army, the CAG, the PM and the people of India,” he claimed.

Published on February 27, 2020

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