The late Wednesday notification of the Law Ministry, notifying the transfer of Justice S. Muralidhar from the Delhi High Court to the Punjab and Haryana High Court triggered a political war of words on Thursday between the Union government and the Congress party.
The principal Opposition party alleged that the government’s move was aimed at saving Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders since it came barely hours after a Bench comprising Justice Muralidhar and Justice Talwant Singh came down heavily on the Delhi Police for not registering a case against BJP leaders like Kapil Mishra, Pravesh Verma and Union Minister Anurag Thakur for making hate speeches.
Terming the transfer of Justice S. Muralidhar as “routine and on the recommendation of the Supreme Court Collegium’s decision of February 12”, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Thursday accused the Congress of politicising the issue.
Law Ministry officials also pointed out that Justice R.V. Malimath of the Karnataka High Court was transferred to Uttarakhand and Justice R.V. More of the Bombay High Court to Meghalaya, along with Justice Muralidhar.
The Ministry, late on Wednesday night, had the notified the transfer of Justice S. Muralidhar after President Ram Nath Kovind gave his signatures to the order.
Questioning the transfer, former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi also dragged in late Judge B. H. Loya by “remembering” him in a tweet.
Justice Loya’s death
Judge Loya, who died of a heart attack in December 2014, was handling the encounter case of Sohrabuddin Sheikh in which Home Minister Amit Shah was an accused but subsequently discharged.
The Congress had levelled allegations of foul play surrounding the 47-year-old Judge Loya’s death — the party wanted a probe but the higher judiciary did not order any such investigation.
“Remembering the brave Judge Loya, who wasn’t transferred,” former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi tweeted in a dig at the government over the transfer of Justice Muralidhar.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad hit back at Mr. Gandhi and the Congress in a series of tweets.
“The Loya judgment 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?” asked Mr. Prasad.
“Transfer of Honourable 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,” he 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,” the Law Minister added.
Attacking the Congress for its role in undermining the judiciary during Emergency, Mr. Prasad alleged that “they [Congess] rejoice only when the judgment is of their liking otherwise raise questions on the institutions itself”.
Using strong words, the Law Minister said, “The 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 (Comptroller and Auditor General), the PM and the people of India.”
The Minister’s response came after Congress communication chief Randeep Surjewala, at a press conference, listed out examples of “how the government was undermining the judiciary”.
“The Modi government maliciously blocked the recommendation of the Supreme Court Collegium in appointing Justice K.M. Joseph as a Supreme Court Judge after a Bench of Uttarakhand High Court headed by him had quashed the illegal decision of the Modi Government in imposing President’s rule in Uttarakhand. The government had also blocked the recommendation of the Supreme Court Collegium on Justice Akil Qureshi, whose order had led to detention of Amit Shah in the year 2010,” alleged Mr. Surjewala.
Congress general secretary K. C. Venugopal called the transfer “malicious” and it was done because an impartial investigation would have exposed the complicity of the Prime Minister and the Home Minister in the recent Delhi riots.
“The country is witnessing a dictatorship which is continuously gaining ground, wherein not only democratic institutions but the judiciary itself is blatantly suppressed and undermined. Mr. Modi and Mr. Shah must make it clear as to why are they afraid of an impartial and fair investigation,” he said in a statement.
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