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Given ‘no objection’ to Collegium on Feb 17: Justice S Muralidhar on his transfer from Delhi HC

NEW DELHI: Justice S Muralidhar on Thursday (March 5, 2020) cleared the air over the controversy on his transfer from the Delhi High Court to Punjab and Haryana High Court, saying he had replied to Chief Justice of India S A Bobde’s communication that he was fine with the proposal and had no objection to…

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NEW DELHI: Justice S Muralidhar on Thursday (March 5, 2020) cleared the air over the controversy on his transfer from the Delhi High Court to Punjab and Haryana High Court, saying he had replied to Chief Justice of India S A Bobde’s communication that he was fine with the proposal and had no objection to it.

The controversy erupted after the Centre issued Justice Muralidhar’s transfer notification close to midnight of February 26 – the day a bench headed by him had pulled up Delhi Police for failing to register FIRs against three BJP leaders for their alleged hate speeches which purportedly led to the recent violence in northeast Delhi.

Justice Muralidhar (58), who received a grand farewell on Thursday from a huge gathering including judges and lawyers amid big rounds of applause, said he wanted to clear the confusion on his transfer and narrated the sequence of events from the time he received CJI’s communication till February 26.

The Supreme Court collegium, headed by the CJI, had in a meeting on February 12 recommended the transfer of Justice Muralidhar to Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Justice Muralidhar was number three in the Delhi High Court, his parent high court as a judge.

Explaining the transfer process, he said the 5-member collegium sends to the Centre a recommendation that a judge of a high court should be transferred to another high court. The judge concerned is not at this stage under orders of transfers. That happens only when the collegium’s recommendation fructifies into a notification.

“In my case, the collegium’s decision was communicated to me by the CJI on February 17 by a letter which sought my response. I acknowledged receipt of the letter, I was then asked to clarify what I meant. As I saw it, if I was to be transferred from the Delhi High Court anyway, I was fine with moving to the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

“I, therefore, clarified to the CJI that I did not object to the proposal. An explanation for my transfer reached the press…On February 20 quoting ‘sources in the Supreme Court collegium’, confirming what has been indicated to me a couple of days earlier,” he said.

The CJI’s letter dated February 14 was delivered to Justice Muralidhar on February 17, the day when the family’s pet labrador Sakhi breathed her last.

He said February 26 was perhaps the longest working day of his life as a judge of the Delhi High Court, where he has spent 14 years on the bench.

He said it began at 12:30 am with a sitting at his residence with Justice A J Bhambhani, under the orders of Justice G S Sistani, to deal with a PIL filed by Rahul Roy seeking safe passage of ambulances carrying the injured riot victims.

“When I received a call at my residence from the lawyer for the petitioner, I first called Justice Sistani to ask what should be done, knowing that the Chief Justice (CJ) was on leave. Justice Sistani explained that he too was officially on leave the whole of February 26 and that I should take up the matter.’’

“This fact is stated in the order passed by the bench after the hearing. Later that day, upon urgent mentioning, as the de facto CJ’s bench, Justice Talwant Singh and I took up another fresh PIL on the CJ’s board seeking registration of FIRs for hate speeches. After the orders passed on that day, the above two PILs remained on the CJ’s Board,” he said.

Justice Muralidhar ended the speech saying the notification which was issued close to midnight of February 26 did two things.

“First, it transferred me to Punjab and Haryana High Court. Second, it appointed me to a position from where I can never be transferred, or removed and in which I shall always be proud to remain. A ‘former judge’ of arguably the best high court in the country. The High Court of Delhi,” he said, following a standing ovation by all the judges and the gathering, including his family members, former judges, lawyers, court staff and media persons.

Earlier in the day, a farewell programme was also organised by the Delhi High Court Bar Association. While addressing the gathering at the bar’s function, Justice Muralidhar concluded his address saying “When justice has to triumph, it will triumph … Be with the truth – Justice will be done.”

Justice Muralidhar’s mother, wife Usha Ramanathan, former Delhi High Court chief justice A P Shah, senior advocate Shanti Bhushan and former Delhi University VC Upendra Baxi were also present at the later function that was organised by the court.

Bidding adieu to Justice Muralidhar, Delhi HC Chief Justice D N Patel said it was an occasion which has come with a saddening effect and his absence will be felt institutionally as well as personally.

Delhi government standing counsel (criminal) Rahul Mehra termed Justice Muralidhar as a “highly intellectual, courageous, upright and incorruptible judge” and sang bengali song ‘ekla chalo re’ to describe him.

Mehra said he joins Delhi High Court Bar Association in “strongly condemning” Justice Muralidhar’s transfer. 

A controversy had erupted in 2018 when Justice Muralidhar had quashed the transit remand order by a trial court and directed release of rights activist Gautam Navlakha from house arrest in the Koregaon Bhima violence case.

In October 2018, a division bench headed by Justice Muralidhar had also convicted 16 former policemen of Uttar Pradesh in the Hashimpura massacre case. He was also heading the bench which in the same year had awarded life imprisonment to Congress leader Sajjan Kumar and sent him to jail in one of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

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Tamil Nadu govt issues new testing guidelines for all incoming travellers, amid spike in coronavirus COVID-19 cases

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In view of the rising coronavirus COVID-19 cases in Tamil Nadu, considering the risk of increased transmission given the high number of inter-state, inter-district travellers (based on government-issued E-passes) and ongoing repatriation of Indian nationals from foreign countries, the state government has issued a new set of guidelines for testing incoming travellers.

So far, nine persons who had landed in Chennai via Vande Bharat repatriation flights had tested positive for the coronavirus. While there is a sharp spike in cases over the last week, the state government has permitted a gradual return to normalcy. This has meant that private companies and most standalone shops are open in all non-containment zones of the state, as per stipulated timings and social distancing norms.

Persons from other countries: All persons to be tested on arrival and if tested positive the individual(s) would be admitted in a hospital. In case of a negative result, they will be kept in government-provided institutional quarantine/hotels (on a paid basis). A follow-up test would be taken after the initial 7-day quarantine, and if that result is also found negative the person/s can be sent for home quarantine for the next 14 days. 

Persons from other States/Union Territories: 

Tests will be conducted on all persons coming into Tamil Nadu from all states and Union territories. In case of a positive result, they would be admitted to hospitals. In case of a negative result, the passengers would have to be under government-provided institutional quarantine facility for 7 days (for persons coming from hotspot states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Delhi). After 7 days if they display no symptoms, they can be sent for home quarantine for 7 days, or they can continue in government quarantine if they do not have facilities at home to be under quarantine. 

Persons from non-hotspot states who test negative may be sent into a 14-day home quarantine or institutional quarantine (in case of facilities are not available at home).

Persons travelling between Tamil Nadu’s districts: Testing to be done only for those coming with symptoms, all individuals to undergo home quarantine for 14 days.

Exemptions: 


* Terminally ill patients, individuals requiring immediate medical attention in a hospital 


* Persons who are due to attend the funeral and ritual associated with the death of an immediate family member


* Pregnant women 


* Elderly persons over the age of 75 years and requiring assistance 

All the above categories claiming medical emergency will be subjected to check up by a medical team to confirm the emergency. Relaxation will not be given for any other category. Persons who seek an exemption in the above categories must submit full detail along with their representation in advance to concerned authorities. 

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Avalanche hits Indian Army post in north Sikkim, soldier missing

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Sikkim

  A soldier went missing after an Indian Army post was hit by an avalanche in North Sikkim on Thursday.

SIKKIM:  A soldier went missing after an Indian Army post was hit by an avalanche in North Sikkim on Thursday.

According to reports, am Army patrolling-cum-snow clearance party of 17-18 personnel was hit by snow slide in the Lugnak La area of Sikkim on Thursday.

Except for one soldier, all others trapped under snow had been rescued, the Army said.

“A patrolling-cum-snow clearance party, comprising 17-18 soldiers, came under snow slide. All recovered except one soldier. Intense search is in progress,” the army said.

In a similar incident earlier, Lance Naik Sanjeeva Reddy, who was operating a dozer in the snowbound high-altitude areas of Sikkim, was hit by an avalanche on April 11.

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Maharashtra government likely to extend lockdown till May 31 amid rising cases of coronavirus COVID-19 in state

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In view of the increasing cases of coronavirus COVID-19 in Maharashtra, the state government has decided to extend the lockdown till May 31, said sources on Thursday. However, the government’s decision will be officially announced within a couple of days.

A two-day meeting of the ministers of Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress reviewed the situation arising out of the deadly virus in the state. Simultaneously, there was a discussion on extending the lockdown and bringing the economy back on track in a phased manner in the state.

According to sources, in the meeting, it was agreed to extend the lockdown. Also, it was decided to relax the areas which are not in the containment zones, but the areas which are in the red zones will not be given any exemption. 

Extending the lockdown doesn’t harm the state’s economy, so business establishments and industry businesses may be given a conditional exemption to start their operations in areas where coronavirus has little impact.

It is worth noting that the first lockdown in Maharashtra began on March 25, just like the entire country. The second lockdown began on April 14. The third lockdown began on May 3, ending on May 17. After this, the fourth phase in Maharashtra can be from May 18-31.

Significantly, Maharashtra is the most coronavirus infected state in the country. On May 13, the number of coronavirus positive patients in Maharashtra increased to 25,922. By evening, the death toll from coronavirus in Maharashtra had risen to 975. As far as Mumbai is concerned, by the number of coronavirus positive patients stands at 15,747. At the same time, a total of 596 people have lost their lives from coronavirus in Mumbai.

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