“No idea what made government angry” Justice S Muralidhar on Delhi riots case

Debjit Mukherjee: Justice S Muralidhar, former Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court, stated that he did not understand why his order in the Delhi riots case, in which he asked the Delhi Police to ensure safety and treatment for riot victims, had upset the central government.

When asked about the verdict at a public event in Bengaluru, Justice Muralidhar commented that any other judge “should have done the same thing”.

“I don’t know what is it that upset… Any other judge should have done the same thing. Every other colleague of mine in the Delhi High Court would have reacted the same way. I don’t think anybody else would have acted differently. So, what is that upset the government? I am as clueless as you are, if at all they were upset,” Justice Muralidhar was quoted as saying.

He further said, “It does not matter, because many people feel that it was the right thing to do. In fact, it was. I was later told that many lives were saved with that intervention by the Court.”

Justice Muralidhar retired as the Chief Justice of the Odisha High Court in August, concluding his 17-year career during which he delivered several notable judgments. Some have argued that his elevation to the Supreme Court was stalled by the central government due to his unfavourable judgments.

In February 2020, Justice Muralidhar presided over three sittings, dealing with urgent pleas over the police inaction in the Delhi riots. After an emergency midnight hearing at his residence, Justice Muralidhar had issued an order directing police to protect the people injured in the riot and ensure their safe transfer to hospital with proper facilities.

In the order, he directed the Delhi Police to deploy ‘all the resources at its command’ to ensure the safety of the riot-affected people and the prompt shifting of injured victims for emergency treatment. He also instructed the police to submit a compliance report.

In another order, he directed the government to provide temporary shelter, treatment and counselling for the displaced riot victims.

Immediately after these orders, the central government transferred Justice Muralidhar to the Punjab and Haryana High Court.