In an impressive career, which spans over 3 decades, Dr Justice S. Muralidhar has established himself as a legal luminary whose persona is a terrific combination of intellect and sensitivity. As he prepares to call it a day as 32nd Chief Justice of Orissa High Court, we have made a humble attempt to curate the important moments and decisions of this much beloved and respected Judge.
Early Life, Education and Advocacy1
Born on 8-08-1961, Dr Justice Muralidhar completed his graduation in Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from Vivekananda College, Chennai and thereafter he completed his Law Degree from University of Madras and was awarded the L. C. Miller Medals and the Carmichael and Innes Prize in 1984.
Did you Know? Dr Justice S. Muralidhar represented India at the 25th Phillip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition held in Washington D.C. in April, 1984.
Justice Muralidhar enrolled as an Advocate on 12-09-1984 and started his legal practice before Madras High Court and Civil Courts in Chennai. In July, 1987 he shifted his practice to Delhi and worked with G. Ramaswamy who was then Additional Solicitor General of India.
Dr Justice S. Muralidhar cleared the Advocate-on-Record Examination conducted by the Supreme Court of India in 1990 and secured the first position and was also awarded Mukesh Goswami Memorial Prize. He also completed his LL.M in Constitutional and Administrative Law from Nagpur University in 1991.
Dr Justice S. Muralidhar was awarded Doctorate in Philosophy (Ph.D.) for “Legal Aid and the Criminal Justice System in India” by University of Delhi in February, 2003.
He argued cases before Supreme Court of India, Delhi High Court and various other judicial fora. His practice included a diverse range of litigation in the field of Constitutional law, Election Law, Criminal Law, human rights, legal aid, and public interest litigation etc. He was also a counsel for Election Commission of India and National Human Rights Commission for several years.
Membership of Committees2
Dr Justice S. Muralidhar served as a Member and Chairman of various committees. He served as a Member of the Administrative and General Supervision Committee, the Building Maintenance and Construction Committee, Committee for designation of Senior Advocates. Justice Muralidhar also served as a member of Committee to take up the matter with the Government for providing the infrastructure for the Subordinate Judiciary, etc.
Justice Muralidhar was elevated as an Additional Judge of Delhi High Court on 29-05-2006 and became Permanent Judge on 29-08-2007. After serving his parent High Court for 14 years as a Judge, Dr Justice S. Muralidhar was transferred as Judge of High Court of Punjab and Haryana from 6-03-2020 till 3-01-2021. He was thereafter sworn in as Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court on 4-01-20213.
The Supreme Court Collegium had resolved to transfer him to the Madras High Court, the recommendation of which however, remained pending with the Government of India without response. In view of the delay, the Collegium in its Resolution dated 19-04-2023 recalled the recommendation of Dr Justice S. Muralidhar in order to facilitate the appointment of a permanent Chief Justice in the Madras High Court.
Did You Know? On September 17, 2022, Dr Justice S. Muralidhar inaugurated Paperless Courts, a groundbreaking initiative that encompassed all 30 districts of Odisha, streamlining court proceedings and promoting an eco-friendlier approach to legal proceedings. His visionary leadership led to the inauguration of 20 virtual courts in the state, marking the advent of e-filing and web portal concepts.4
Delhi High Court
Consideration of issues regarding online use of trademarks and determination of territorial jurisdiction of Court: Delhi HC
Dr S. Muralidhar*, J., in Banyan Tree Holding (P) Limited v. A. Murali Krishna Reddy, 2009 SCC OnLine Del 3780, applied the purposeful availment test and observed that for the purposes of a passing off action, or an infringement action where the plaintiff is not carrying on business within the jurisdiction of a court, in order to satisfy the forum court that it has jurisdiction to entertain the suit, the Plaintiff would have to show that the Defendant “purposefully availed” itself of the jurisdiction of the forum court and held that merely having an interactive website was not sufficient to make the defendant amenable to the jurisdiction of the forum court. It was further held that the plaintiff had to show the intention of the defendant to conclude a commercial transaction with the website user.5
Air India’s order allowing Executive Female Cabin Crew to be considered for the position of “In Flight Supervisor”, is not violative of the Constitution: Delhi HC
The Division Bench of Mukul Mudgal and Dr. S. Muralidhar*, JJ., in Rajendra Grover v. Air India Ltd., 2007 SCC OnLine Del 1389, while hearing a challenge against Air India’s promotional policies whereby which they had allowed female cabin crew to undertake flying duties up to 58 years bringing them at par with male counterparts and Executive Female Cabin Crew will henceforth be eligible to be considered for the position of In-flight Supervisor (IFS) along with the male Executive Cabin Crew; held that the impugned orders were not discriminatory.
The right to housing is a bundle of rights not limited to a bare shelter over one’s head: Delhi HC
The Division Bench of Dr S. Muralidhar* and Vibhu Bakhru, JJ., in Ajay Maken v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7618, while deliberating over PIL filed in relation to forced eviction of 5000 jhuggi dwellers in Shakur Basti, stated that the right to housing is a bundle of rights which includes the right to livelihood, right to health, right to education and right to food, including right to clean drinking water, sewerage and transport facilities. The law explained by the Supreme Court in several of its decisions discourage a narrow view of the dweller in a jhuggi as an illegal occupant without rights. They acknowledge that the right to adequate housing is a right to access several facets that preserve the capability of a person to enjoy the freedom to live in the city. They recognise such persons as rights bearers whose full panoply of constitutional guarantees require recognition, protection and enforcement. That is the running theme of the DUSIB Act and the 2015 Policy. Once a JJ basti/cluster is eligible for rehabilitation, the agencies should cease viewing the JJ dwellers therein as illegal encroachers.
2020 Delhi Riots | Delhi HC issues directions regarding safe passage of dead bodies of riot victims; setting up helplines and rehabilitation of riot victims
The Division Bench of Dr S. Muralidhar and Anup Jairam Bhambhani, JJ., in Rahul Roy v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2020 SCC OnLine Del 2106, issued multiple directions to the Delhi Government regarding matters like-
safe passage for the bodies of the unfortunate victims who have died in the riots with proper information being given to their relatives and friends to facilitate the collection of the bodies and for ensuring that their burial/cremation takes place with utmost dignity.
setting-up of help lines and help desks.
Directions issued to ensure that there is safe passage for both the fire engines as well as to ambulances, the police will also requisition adequate number of private ambulances from private hospitals and other charitable organisations.
GNCTD to be on war footing and ensure that adequate number of such shelters are set-up to provide rehabilitation to such displaced victims. The GNCTD will facilitate the victims accessing such places, without too much documentation/paperwork.
Designated ‘Night Magistrates’ should be available between sunset and till the regular opening hours of the Court to address the urgent needs of the times.
2020 Delhi Riots | Delhi Police should seriously consider the consequences that would ensue with every day’s delay in registering FIRs
The Division bench of S. Muralidhar and Talwant Singh, JJ., in Harsh Mander v. State (NCT of Delhi), 2020 SCC OnLine Del 2124, raised concerns over delay in lodging of FIR by the Police and stated that they should seriously consider the consequences that would ensue with every day’s delay in registering FIRs not only on the basis of the video clips that have been played in Court but all other video clips of speeches/actions by anyone, whosoever it may be, which disclose ex facie the commission of an offence, bearing in mind that the rule of law is supreme and that no one is above the law.
Punjab and Haryana High Court
Punjab and Haryana HC directs petitioner to seek alternate remedy available under the Agreement
The Division Bench of Dr S. Muralidhar* and Avneesh Jhingan, JJ., in Proactive In and Out Advertising Pvt. Ltd. v. Airport Authority of India, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 1172, dismissed the instant petition upon discovery of availability of alternate remedies to the petitioner. In the present case, the petitioner has questioned the demand for concession fees to the tune of Rs 2,19,10,897 sought from the Petitioner by the Respondent/Airport Authority of India, through minutes of meeting dated 25-05-2020 and letter dated 01-07-2020. During the course of the proceedings, Article 22.1 of the Concessionaire Agreement (CA) dated 11-12-2019, caught the attention of the Court which affirmed the liability of the petitioner to pay the respondent for actual advertisement area made available to it at Amritsar Airport.
Punjab and Haryana HC dismisses challenge to the validity of appointment of Presidents of DCDRC
The Division Bench of Dr S. Muralidhar* and Avneesh Jhingan, JJ., in Bhupinder Kumar Sharma v. State of Punjab, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 2262, dismissed a challenge to the validity of the appointment of Presidents of District Consumer Redressal Commission. The Court stated that It is not disputed that he submitted his application for the post of President, DCDRC, pursuant to the notice issued by Respondent No. 2. The said application was forwarded by the Department of Home Affairs and Justice, Punjab Government to Respondent No. 2 only on 29th January 2019 and received by the latter on 6th February 2019. The Petitioner did not, at the time of submitting his application, record that he was doing so under protest. It is only when his name did not figure in the list of selected candidates that he decided to challenge Rule 5(7)(b) and (c) of the PCP Rules, 2018. The settled legal position is that having participated in a selection process, governed by a set of rules, the rejected candidate cannot challenge the validity of the rules.
Whether it is permissible for the landowners to apply before the Arbitrator, after the order of the Executing Court, to have the error corrected? Punjab & Haryana HC answers
The Division Bench of Dr S. Muralidhar* and Avneesh Jhingan, JJ., in Project Director, National Highways Authority of India v. S.D.M.-cum-Land Acquisition Collector, 2020 SCC OnLine P&H 3931, were considering a case where land acquired by the NHAI was in fact located in rectangle No. 9 and not in rectangle No. 5, and the error in mentioning the number of the rectangle in which the land in question was located, was committed not by the Arbitrator but by the land owners first in their application for enhancement of compensation and later even in the execution petition.
The Court stated that Under Section 33 of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 an application for rectification of a computation error, a clerical, typographical or such similar error has to be made by the party seeking such rectification, within 30 days of the receipt of the Award. Once that period is crossed, a party cannot be permitted to file an application for rectification of any error. The Court further stated that the error which is sought to be rectified has consequences for NHAI. In other words, it is not a mere technical error. It involves the NHAI having to pay a further sum of over Rs. 10 crores to Respondents. In such circumstances, to overlook the procedural requirements under the A&C Act as only a “technicality” may not be right approach, notwithstanding the fact the NHAI had acquired land located in rectangle No. 9 and not rectangle No. 5.
Orissa High Court
Seashore Chit Fund Scam: Orissa High Court rejects Transfer petition of 19 Criminal cases to CBI Court
In Prashanta Kumar Dash v. State of Odisha, 2023 SCC OnLine Ori 4544, filed by the Director of Seashore Group of Companies (‘petitioner’) seeking transfer of criminal cases pending against him to the Special Judge Central Bureau of Investigation (‘CBI’), the Single Judge Bench of Dr. S. Muralidhar, CJ*., dismissed the transfer petitions.
Orissa HC quashes Criminal Proceedings against OTV Journalist Accused of Dissuading Public from Availing Covid 19 Treatment
In Swadheen Kumar Raut v. State of Odisha, 2023 SCC OnLine Ori 3703, filed under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (‘Cr.P.C’), wherein the Input Editor (‘petitioner’) in Orissa Television Ltd. (‘OTV’) was seeking to quash the criminal proceedings pending against him in the Court of Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate (‘S.D.J.M’), Bhubaneswar under Sections 269, 270, 120-B and 505(1)(b) of the Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’) read with Section 52 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, the Single Judge Bench of Dr. S. Muralidhar, CJ*., allowed the petition and quashed the proceedings against the petitioner.
Orissa High Court upholds Acquittal of Accused Persons in witchcraft murder case.
In State of Orissa v. Mangulu Munda, 2023 SCC OnLine Ori 3580, which was an appeal by the Government of Orissa against the Judgment of the Sessions Judge wherein, the accused persons- respondents were acquitted of the offenses punishable under Sections 452, 302, 201 read with Section 34 of the Penal Code, 1860 (‘IPC’), the Division Bench of Dr. S. Muralidhar CJ*. and G. Satapathy J., dismissed the appeal and upheld the Trial Court’s Judgment of acquitting the accused persons, granted them the benefit of doubt as the evidence brought on record by the prosecution failed to meet the requisite standard.
Any person selling article or food without a license would be punishable under S. 16 (I)(a)(ii) PFA Act as per S. 7(iii) PFA Act: Orissa HC
Dr S. Muralidhar CJ* in Tengunu Sahoo v. State of Orissa, 2022 SCC OnLine Ori 1394, set aside the conviction decision of the Trial Court which was later affirmed by the Appellate Court. The case of the prosecution was that Chittaranjan Das who was the Food Inspector, Bolangir visited Agalpur along with the Food Peon Antabal Majhi. He inspected the Tiffin Stall of the Accused and found that the accused Bhika Sahu (Petitioner 2) had exposed Aluchap, Rasgola, Balesai, Gaja, Tea etc. for sale for human consumption. The persons from the locality were called to witness the inspection. One Laxmikanta Saraf came to witness the inspection. Bhika Sahoo was asked to produce the food licence, but he could not do so. It was found that Petitioner 1 had a food license which was valid up to 31st December 1988 which licence had not been renewed thereafter. Since both accused were selling food articles without license, they were found to have contravened Section 7(iii)(v) of the PFA Act and Rule 50 of the PFA Rules.
As Dr Justice S. Muralidhar retires today, he leaves behind a rich legacy of decisions which speak volumes about his meticulous application of legal principles on facts of each case and ensuring that justice is provided to the aggrieved. He has often highlighted the ugly truth that laws are structured to discriminate against the poor and that the system works unequally for the poor and the rich. “The lack of confidence in the legal aid lawyer is a reflection of the general approach to welfare services by the providers and the perception that this is an act of dignity rather than the right of the person who receives such service. I call it the ration shop syndrome. The poor believe that if you get any service for free or it is substantially subsidised, then you cannot demand quality”.6
However, this may not be the end, for once you enter the field of Law, you will only be diving deeper into an ever-expanding universe!
We wish Dr Justice S. Muralidhar a happy retirement, with an excited anticipation to find out the next phase of his legal journey.