Justice S Muralidhar removed from the Delhi violence case. This is as blatant as it can get. He was asking hard questions and pressing for an FIR against hate speech.
Ever since the violence erupted in the national capital, there are several claims which are doing the rounds on social media. One political ideology is accusing others of rioting and vice versa. We were flagged to fact check a claim which states that the Delhi High Court judge S Muralidhar was removed from the hearing of the Delhi violence case. A verified Twitter user namely ‘Saikat Datta’ shared this claim on his handle along with many others who accused the government of giving free passage to the rioters or who instigated the riots.
Justice S Muralidhar removed from the Delhi violence case. This is as blatant as it can get. He was asking hard questions and pressing for an FIR against hate speech https://t.co/uKgE3hleCB
— Saikat Datta (firstname.lastname@example.org) (@saikatd) February 26, 2020
Justice Muralidhar के ट्रान्स्फ़र के बाद बात और साफ़ हो जाती है, ये दंगे और मौतें, सरकार की आँख में बिलकुल नहीं चुभ रहीं, और इसे रोकने की हर मुमकिन कोशिश को वो जल्द से जल्द कुचल देंगे!!
— Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub (@Mdzeeshanayyub) February 27, 2020
As we began to fact check the claim, we first searched media reports on the issue. We found a report published by the news portal The Wire. As per ‘The Wire’ report, the counsel representing Al-Hind Hospital in Delhi filed a plea for urgent hearing following which Justice Muralidhar and Justice A.J. Bhambhani held an emergency sitting at 1 a.m. on Wednesday.
New Delhi: The gazette notification effecting the transfer of Justice S. Muralidhar from the Delhi high court on Wednesday couldn’t have been more curiously timed. On the day the judge held three key hearings on the Delhi riots and passed orders that annoyed the Modi government at the Centre, the law ministry issued a notification formally shifting him from the crucial Delhi high court to the Punjab and Haryana high court.
The aforementioned ‘The Wire’ report also informs that the Delhi violence case was heard by Justice Muralidhar in the first place since Chief Justice Patel was on personal leave since Monday. An excerpt from ‘The Wire’ report reads, “These matters landed on Justice Muralidhar’s docket by happenstance as the chief justice of the Delhi high court, Justice D.N. Patel was on leave. The second senior judge, acting on behalf of the chief in his absence, handed the hospital’s late-night writ to Justice Muralidhar.”
During our investigation, we also found a report by ‘Bar and Bench’ that backs ‘The Wire’ report. An excerpt from the report reads, “The matter, which was initially supposed to come up before the Bench of Chief Justice DN Patel, was posted before the Bench headed by Justice Muralidhar, as the former was on leave.
Mander’s plea related to the Delhi Riots will continue to be heard today, by a Bench headed by Chief Justice Patel.”
[Live from Delhi High Court] You are an inspiration, lawyers tell Justice Muralidhar as he sits as Delhi HC judge for the last time
The Delhi riots matter in relation to registration of FIR will not be heard by Justice Muralidhar
We also found a series of tweets by Live Law that informs the same as of the two reports states above.
Petition by @harsh_mander seeking the registration of FIRs for hate speech with respect to Delhi violence has now been listed before the Delhi High Court bench of CJ DN Patel and J. Harishankar tomorrow.
The matter was earlier heard today by a Bench headed by J. Muralidhar.
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) February 26, 2020
This was the original roster, but could not be taken up by the same due to unavailability of the two senior-most judges. Therefore, it had been heard by J. Muralidhar. Matter is listed at Item No. 42.
— Live Law (@LiveLawIndia) February 26, 2020
Basis the information available in the public domain, we found that the Delhi violence case was not listed to be heard by Justice Muralidhar initially but since Delhi High Court Chief Justice DN Patel was on leave since Monday, the matter was posted before the Bench headed by Justice Muralidhar.
As we searched further, we found a tweet by media agency ANI in which Law Minister of India Ravishankar Prasad has said that the transfer of Justice Muralidhar was done pursuant to recommendation dated 12.02.2020 of the Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice of India. While transferring the judge, the consent of the judge is taken. The well-settled process has been followed.
Union Minister RS Prasad: Transfer of Justice Muralidhar was done pursuant to 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. pic.twitter.com/H1Hg1gQXdd
— ANI (@ANI) February 27, 2020
We also found a tweet by Utkarsh Anand, who is also the legal editor for News18. Utkarsh’s tweet reports the notification for the transfer of three High Court judges. Notably, the transfer was recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium on February 12 which is way before the riots in the national capital erupted.
The Govt last evening notified this recommendation. The other two High Court judges mentioned in this statement have also been transferred y’day. pic.twitter.com/eQSknK54DH
— Utkarsh Anand (@utkarsh_aanand) February 27, 2020
We also searched the Department of Justice website of Indian Law Ministry and we found a memorandum for the appointment and transfer of High Court judges. Point No. 25 of the memorandum talks about the transfer of High Court judges. Point No. 25 of the same memorandum reads, “Article 222 of the Constitution makes provision for the transfer of a Judge (including Chief Justice) from one High Court to any other High Court. The initiation of the proposal for the transfer of a Judge should be made by the Chief Justice of India whose opinion in this regard is determinative. Consent of a Judge for his first or subsequent transfer would not be required. All transfers are to be made in public interest i.e. for promoting better administration of justice throughout the country.”
Memorandum of procedure of appointment of High Court JudgesDepartment of Justice | Ministry of Law & Justice | GoI
Department of Justice, Ministry of Law and Justice, is responsible for the administrative functions in relation to the appointment of various judges at various courts in India, maintenance and revision of the conditions and rules of service of the judges and other related areas.
Hence, it is evident from our investigation that the High Court judge S Muralidhar was not removed from the Delhi violence case as he was not originally listed to hear the matter. He could hear the matter only because the Chief Justice of Delhi High Court was on leave. It is established from our fact check that the transfer of justice Muralidhar was initiated on 12 February 2020 and the violence erupted in Delhi on 24 February only.
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