New Delhi: The Supreme Court Bar Association's (SCBA) President and senior advocate Dushyant Dave on Thursday said the transfer of Justice S. Muralidhar from Delhi High Court to Punjab and Haryana High Court is a "malafide and punitive action" against him by the Centre.
The lawyers' association chief's reaction gains significance, as opposition leaders have unleashed a political tirade over the transfer.
Dave cited the observations made by Justice Muralidhar against the Delhi Police during the hearing on the violence, which has erupted in various parts of the city following clashes between opponents and supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act, and later acquired communal overtones. The Judge's transfer was notified by the Centre late on Wednesday, just hours after he presided over a hearing concerning the Delhi riots.
The Supreme Court Collegium on February 12 issued a statement, recommending the transfer of Justice Muralidhar from the Delhi High Court to the Punjab & Haryana High Court. Justice Muralidhar has been in the Delhi High Court for over a decade, and he was the third senior-most judge.
Talking to the media, Dave agreed that the transfer notification was part of the process, as it had been proposed by the Collegium. However, he emphasised on the haste in issuing the notification on the same day when the judge had made some strong observations.
Justice Muralidhar passed strong orders against the government, which shows action taken against him was "malafide and punitive", he said.
Justice Muralidhar's transfer also led to a political slugfest between Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi.
Calling it 'deplorable', Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra raised the issue of transfer of Justice Muralidhar on a day he came down heavily on the centre as his brother and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi brought in Judge Loya sarcastically whose circumstances of death created a political row.
Priyanka tweeted: "The midnight transfer of Justice Muralidhar isn't shocking given the current dispensation, but it is certainly sad & shameful."
Making a case for independent judiciary, she went on to allege, "Millions of Indians have faith in a resilient & upright judiciary, the government's attempts to muzzle justice & break their faith are deplorable."
Rahul Gandhi joined as well by tweeting:" Remembering the brave Judge Loya, who wasn't transferred."
However, Prasad said that "well-settled process" was followed.
"Transfer of AJustice 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 have been followed", he said in a tweet.