Justice Murlidhar, who has over an illustrious career, established himself as a hero of the oppressed and a friend of the people, now been made to pay the price for walking the path of justice. The Delhi High Court judge has now been transferred to the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The timing of his transfer is most curious given how over the last 24 hours he has helped secure justice for people affected by the widespread violence in Delhi.
On the intervening night between Tuesday and Wednesday, Justice Murlidhar convened an emergency hearing at his home along with Justice Bhambhani, when pleas to help ambulances safe passage to and from the Al Hind Hospital in Mustafabad area failed to elicit any response from the Delhi Police. It was an order past post-midnight by that directed police to provide protection to ambulances so that critically injured people could be taken out of the Al Hind Hospital and be taken to other medical facilities where they could get the more specialized care they required.
Then on Wednesday afternoon, it was Justice Murlidhar who ensured that a video showing controversial BJP leader Kapil Mishra issuing a chilling ultimatum to the Delhi Police to evict anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) protesters from near the Jafrabad metro station, was played before the Solicitor General Tushar Mehta as well as the police officer present in court. Murlidhar was hearing a petition seeking directions to the police to file and FIR against Mishra for using hate speech to incite violence. During this hearing he had also allowed for other videos of hate offenders such as Anurag Thakur, Parvesh Verma and Abhay Verma to be played before the court. He had also upbraided the Solicitor General for his remark that FIRs will be filed at an “appropriate time” wondering aloud if the moment wasn’t now. When proceedings concluded he had directed the Delhi Police to take a conscious decision about filing FIRs reminding them that failure to do their duty could lead to a serious miscarriage of justice.
On February 19, the Supreme Court Collegium recommended Justice Murlidhar’s transfer from the Delhi HC to the Punjab and Haryana HC. This led to the Delhi HC Bar Association to conduct an emergency meeting where it was resolved to protest this move. They even resolved to abstain from work on Tuesday to showcase their displeasure.
In a statement, the Bar Association expressed their shock, dismay and outrage saying, “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.”
Career and key judgements
At present Justice Murlihar is the third senior most judge at the Delhi HC. He started his law practice in 1984 in Chennai and in 1987 started practicing at the Supreme Court and Delhi HC. He worked pro-bono to secure justice for survivors of the Bhopal Gas Tragedy and those displaced by the Narmada dam. InMay 2006, he was appointed a judge of the Delhi HC.
Here are a few of his illustrious judgements:
·Decriminalisation of homosexuality in the famous 2009 Naz Foundation case
·Convicting Sajjan Kumar for his role in the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom
·Convicting 16 policemen in the Hashimpura case
·He also stayed the transit remand for Gautam Navlakha in the Bhima Koregaon case in 2018 when activists were hounded by a vindictive state and accused of being ‘anti-national’ and ‘urban naxal’.
In light of all this, it appears that Justice Murlidhar is just being punished for daring to take on a regime that has zero tolerance for either defiance or dissent.