Responding to a spiraling controversy over the transfer of Delhi High Court judge Justice S Muralidhar, who had on Wednesday asked for First Information Reports (FIR)s against BJP leaders for hate speeches and grilled the police over the violence in the national capital, the government said a “well-settled process” had been followed and the judge’s consent had been taken.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused the Congress of “politicizing a routine transfer” in a series of tweets.
“Transfer of Hon’ble Justice Muralidhar was done pursuant to the recommendation dated 12.02.2020 of the Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice of India. While transferring the judge consent of the judge is taken. The well-settled process has been followed,” the law minister tweeted.
“By politicising a routine transfer, Congress has yet again displayed its scant regard for the judiciary. People of India have rejected Congress Party and hence it is hell bent on destroying the very institutions India cherishes by constantly attacking them,” Mr Prasad posted.
The notification on the transfer of Justice Muralidhar, the third highest judge of the Delhi High Court, to the Punjab and Haryana High Court was issued around 11 pm on Wednesday night by the central government, about two weeks after it was recommended by the Supreme Court collegium on February 12.
The transfer notification does not give any time frame for the judge to join his new post, which was seen to infer that he should do so immediately. Such transfer orders usually give judges 14 days to join.
The order came on a day Justice Muralidhar had said, “We cannot let another 1984-like event happen in this country” and asked the government – at the centre and in Delhi – to work together to combat unrelenting violence in parts of the city in which 32 people have been killed.
The judges also had videos of hate speeches by four BJP leaders – Kapil Mishra, Anurag Thakur, Abhay Verma and Parvesh Verma – played in court. The hearing was on a petition seeking First Information Reports (FIRs) against those who incited and participated in the violence in northeast Delhi.
The judge asked why there shouldn’t be FIRs against the four BJP leaders. He told the Delhi Police chief to “seriously consider the consequences” of not registering the FIR.
When the centre, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta argued that FIRs would be registered at an “appropriate time”, Justice Muralidhar said: “What’s the appropriate time, Mr Mehta? The city is burning”.
The judge had asked the police to appear on Thursday with a status report. The case is now listed before the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court, Justice Dhirubhai Naranbhai Patel.
Among those who criticized Justice Muralidhar’s transfer were Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra.
“The midnight transfer of Justice Muralidhar isn’t shocking given the current dispensation, but it is certainly sad and shameful. Millions of Indians have faith in a resilient and upright judiciary, the government’s attempts to muzzle justice & break their faith are deplorable,” tweeted Priyanka Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi’s tweet referred to Justice BH Loya, whose death in 2014, while he was hearing the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter killing case in which Amit Shah was an accused, became a huge political controversy.
Remembering the brave Judge Loya, who wasn’t transferred.
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) February 27, 2020
Mr Prasad responded, tweeting: “The Loya judgement has 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 said a “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.”
The record of the Congress in compromising independence of judiciary, superseding judges even of Supreme Court during Emergency “is well-known”, alleged the Law Minister.