Known by the words Empathetic, fair and unswerving judge Present chief justice of Orissa high court, Justice S Muralidhar born on 8th august 1961. Justice Muralidhar started his law career by practicing in Chennai in 1984. Then he shifted his practice to Delhi high court in 1987. In Delhi, he worked as a junior lawyer under the then additional solicitor general G Ramaswamy, who later became the attorney general of India. Justice Muralidhar was the third most senior judge of the Delhi high court. Justice Muralidhar was among the few judges who have jettisoned the convention of judges being addressed as my lord or your lordship. He viewed Courts as “not merely places where the law is practiced and produced” but also as “spaces where the constitutional values are tested.

Justice Muralidhar was also standing counsel for the national human rights commission. Justice Muralidhar is one of the greatest jurists. According to his view, he maintained neutrality as per the constitution to require” the judge at all levels to be able to discern the weak from the strong litigant in terms of their capacities to access justice and lean on the side of the vulnerable in order to attempt to achieve equality of arms”. Justice Muralidhar was part of the high court bench that first legalized homosexuality in Naz foundation v govt of NCT of Delhi(2009). He acted as amicus curie of the supreme court in many public interest litigations. Justice Muralidhar is known for his work as fair and unswerving.

Education and career

justice Muralidhar completed his Bachelor of Sciences (Chemistry) from the Vivekananda College, Chennai securing first class from the Madras University in 1981. He completed the bachelor of law course (“BL”) from the University of Madras and was awarded the L.C. Miller Medals, and the Carmichael and Innes Prize, 1984. As a law student, he was a part of a two-member team of Madras Law College, that won the All India Moot Court Competition and consequently represented India at the 25th Philip c Jessup international law moot court competition held at Washington D C in April 1984. He completed his LLM specializing in Constitutional and Administrative Law from Nagpur university in 1990, Dr. S. Muralidhar was awarded a Ph. D by the University of Delhi in February 2003 for a Doctoral Programme entitled “Legal Aid and the Criminal Justice System in India”. 

Justice Muralidhar started his career as a practicing lawyer in Chennai then he shifted his law practice from Chennai to Delhi. He practiced in the Delhi high court and the supreme court of India. In Delhi, high court justice Muralidhar practiced under legendary advocate the then solicitor general G Ramaswamy. While working with Ramaswamy justice Muralidhar met Usha Ramanathan, a researcher whom he married later. In 2006 Dr.Muralidhar was appointed as a judge of the Delhi high court. Worked as a judge of Delhi high court for around 14 years and later transferred to the high court of Punjab and Haryana in 2020. At present, he is the 32nd chief justice of the Orissa high court.

A senior advocate who began his practice around the same time as Justice Muralidhar says, “A lot of stalwarts argued the case, including Nani Palkhivala (who appeared for Seshan). But Justice Muralidhar’s seemingly small act stands out.” The advocate adds, “His honesty defines him. Even in a profession where one is constantly peer-reviewed and scrutinized, there is not a single thing one can hold against him.”

Controversy in transfer

While he was working as a judge at Delhi high court he suddenly got transfer orders from the collegium of the supreme court which was then headed by former chief justice Sharad Arvind Bobde. The collegium recommends the transfer of justice s Muralidhar from the high court of Delhi to the high court of Punjab and Haryana. The transfer orders came hours after Justice Muralidhar criticized the Delhi cops for not filing FIR against three BJP leaders who gave hate speeches which resulted in violence in Delhi. The transfer is quite controversial several lawyers broke out and demanded reconsideration and withdrawal of the transfer order of Justice Muralidhar

Landmark Judgements by Justice Muralidhar

His landmark verdicts include life imprisonment for Congress leader Sajjan Kumar for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the conviction of policemen for the Hashimpura massacre, in which 42 Muslim men were picked up and killed in 1987. His notable judgments include the cases related to the victims of the Bhopal Gas Disaster and those displaced by the dams on the Narmada.

State through CBI v. Sajjan Kumar (2018)

Justice Muralidhar authored the Judgment on behalf of the Division Bench which reversed the acquittal of Sajjan Kumar for his role in the 1984 Sikh massacre. The High Court went on to hold that such cases were in fact “crimes against humanity” and require a different approach to be adopted by the Courts. Further, the Court observed that this calls for “strengthening the legal system as neither ‘crimes against humanity nor ‘genocide’ is part of our domestic law of crime. This loophole needs to be addressed urgently

Naz Foundation vs Government of NCT of Delhi

Justice Muralidhar was a part of this landmark judgment that decriminalizes homosexuality and considers section 377 of IPC which criminalizes consensual homosexuality as violative of article 21, articles 14, and 15 of the Indian constitution.

Rajendra Grover v. Air India Ltd. (2007)

Dr.Muralidhar was a part of Rajendra Grover v. air India ltd Case which dealt with gender discrimination in-service conditions of cabin crew, where he held that “this Court also finds nothing arbitrary, unreasonable or irrational in the pre-1997 male cabin crew being asked to serve on a flight which has their female colleague” as an In-Flight Supervisor and observed that this has “enabled its female cabin crew to break the ‘glass ceiling’. The glass ceiling is an unacknowledged barrier to advancement in a profession, especially affecting women.

Narmada Bachao Andolan vs Union Of India And Ors

The case was against the construction of a multipurpose dam called Sardar Sarovar dam on the Narmada river. It was claimed that the dam affects the surrounding ecosystem and no rehabilitation was given by the government to the people who reside around those areas. It was a writ petition regarding the violation of fundamental rights of tribals .due to the construction of the dam their right to life and other rights are violated. It was held that displacement of the tribals and other persons would not per se result in violation of their fundamental or other rights; on their rehabilitation at new locations they would be better off than what they were; at the rehabilitation sites they will have more and better amenities than those they enjoyed in their tribal hamlets, and the gradual assimilation in the mainstream of the society would lead to betterment and progress.


Image Source: Outlook India

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