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Sceptical outlook

Sceptical outlook

Justice S Muralidhar's transfer spiralled an active debate amongst people. While usually, such transfers are seldom heeded, Justice Muralidhar's transfer seems momentous. Before anything, he ought to be credited for rising to the occasion when it was most demanded from the judiciary. In the backdrop of gruesome violence that spread in the northeast part of Delhi, Justice Muralidhar grilled the Delhi Police for failing to do its job. Several first-hand accounts underscore Delhi Police's laxity. Justice Muralidhar's orders and his arguments in the Delhi violence case clearly cited the Delhi Police's lack of efficiency in handling the situation. Highlighting the glaring lapses, Justice Muralidhar thundered upon the police besides demanding to know why the latter had not filed FIRs against Kapil Mishra and others who had made inflammatory speeches. As the Delhi Police's counsel, SG Tushar Mehta, tried to buy time for the Police in the judicial matter, a sour outlook was portrayed. Police hesitant in registering an FIR against a political leader who made an inflammatory speech does not give out the right message. Even so, Justice Muralidhar left it to Police's best judgment to file the FIR and inform the court. Wednesday was indeed a rough day for the Delhi Police — somehow managing the riots that had broken out while being grilled by the judiciary for mismanagement and lack of professionalism. But despite Justice Muralidhar's insistence, no FIR was filed against any of the hate speeches. Instead, Justice Muralidhar was notified by the Government of India late on Wednesday itself that he had been transferred to Punjab & Haryana High Court. As momentous as it may seem, counter-arguments to this reaction seemed well in place. Just as time was ripe for any criticism to pour in the matter of Justice Muralidhar's transfer, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad readily defended the decision citing clear adherence to due process which was done based on the prior recommendation of the Supreme Court Collegium over the same on February 12, 2020. Indeed, the SC Collegium had on February 12 recommended Justice Muralidhar's transfer. But what Ravi Shankar Prasad and other like-minded people missed was the government's own norm of ignoring SC Collegium recommendations and acting upon their whims. In fact, the Central government's laxity in this regard was such that the Supreme Court itself had grilled the former in December 2019 for delay in appointment of high court judges, whose names were recommended by its collegium. The delay, as per historical instances, has been stretched by months and years. Naturally, then, the Centre's proactive effort to transfer a High Court judge overnight attaches a sense of scepticism. While it may also be how the Centre is mending its ways and has, for real, begun expediting such due processes for improving the judiciary. After all, as Ravi Shankar Prasad cited, it was a routine process — a rather expedited one at that though.

As far as Congress and BJP are concerned, the debate shall go on till eternity. However, on the ground, what may seem to the general public is the mere fact that the judge who tried to uphold law and order, by condemning the police for lapses and urging it to perform, was transferred the same day.

On Thursday, hearing the Delhi violence case, Chief Justice of Delhi High Court — Justice DN Patel — gave Centre four weeks to provide an update on action taken against the hate speeches. Argument by argument analysis of Wednesday's proceedings in the same case under Justice Muralidhar will show how SG Tushar Mehta had requested time and cited how it was not the "appropriate time" to file the FIR. While Justice Muralidhar was persistently urging Delhi Police to file FIR, Justice DN Patel gave four weeks time, much to Delhi Police and Centre's satisfaction. No FIR only hurts the deterrence factor that should prevent people from indulging into inflammatory speeches.

(image from thehindu.com)

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