LANDMARK JUDGEMENTS BY DR. JUSTICE S. MURALIDHAR by Udi Prakash

Dr. Justice S. Muralidhar has been a pillar on which the modern legal field has been ameliorating. S. Muralidhar completed his Bachelor of Sciences (Chemistry) from the Vivekananda College, Chennai and he secured first rank in the Bachelors of Law course (“BL”) from the University of Madras and was awarded the Lakshminarasa Reddi, the L.C. Miller Medals and the Carmichael and Innes Prize, 1984. His judgeship has seen many positions and prominent and judges and Chief justice of different High Courts where he carried out his duties with the utmost fairness and grace.

Some of his most groundbreaking judgments include:

  • NAZ FOUNDATION VS GOVERNMENT OF NCT OF DELHI AND OTHERS

(DECRIMINALIZES HOMOSEXUALITY)

Naz Foundation had challenged Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code as unconstitutional. Section 377 entitled “Of Unnatural Offences” and this topic had become a hot issue in the recent times as this was restriction on the freedom to live once life especially for the minority group. The Delhi High Court bench consisting of Chief Justice Ajit Prakash Shah and Justice S Muralidhar while adjudicating the matter said that ‘moral indignation, however strong, is not a valid basis for overriding an individual’s fundamental rights of dignity and privacy. In our scheme of things, constitutional morality must outweigh the argument of public morality, even if it is the ‘majoritarian view’.’ They decided to strike down section 377, saying it violates the fundamental rights to life, liberty, and equality as enshrined in the Indian constitution. They said that ‘It cannot be forgotten that discrimination is the antithesis of equality and that it is the recognition of equality which will foster the dignity of every individual.’

  • PUNITHA K SODHI VS. UNION OF INDIA AND OTHERS

(REDEFINES THE PARADIGM OF SEXUAL HARASSMENT IN WORKPLACE CASES)

This is a 2010 judgment before the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013 was enacted and the only rule of law was Vishakha Guidelines. The case delves into various aspects of sexual harassment at the workplace which includes power play, retaliation, defamation, false allegations, institutional prejudice, etc. While judging this matter, Justice Muralidhar introduced a practice wherein which prioritizes the complainant’s perspective over a stereotyped idea of sexual harassment. “If we only examined whether a reasonable person would engage in allegedly harassment conduct, we would run the risk of reinforcing the prevailing level of discrimination….” He further said, “We, therefore, prefer to analyze harassment from the victim’s perspective. A complete understanding of the victim’s view requires…an analysis of the different perspectives of men and women. Conduct that many men consider unobjectionable may offend many women”.

  • SANGAMITRA ACHARYA & ANR. VS STATE (NCT OF DELHI) & ORS

In this landmark judgment, a bench comprising of Justices S Muralidhar and C Hari Shankar of the Delhi high court, among other things, contemplated on the rights of an unmarried adult woman. In the present case, Z had been learning Hindu classical music from the petitioner and was deeply interested in pursuing a career in classical music. As Z was unable to get along with her parents and her brother, she voluntarily moved in with the petitioners when she was 18. However, she is forcibly taken away to a mental hospital by her parents with the help of local police as they believe that she is under the influence of the petitioner. While determining the legal issues, the bench held that her parents are under a mistaken assumption that in case of a daughter, she remains dependent on her parents till she gets married, irrespective of the fact that whether she has attained the majority or not. “This mistaken notion forms the basis upon which they have taken it upon themselves to make Z’s choices for her notwithstanding that Z, having attained the age of majority, can exercise her free will uninfluenced by what her parents might feel or think.’ The bench held that Z’s parents had violated her fundamental rights to life, liberty, privacy, and dignity.

  • LAXMI MANDAL V. DEEN DAYAL HARINAGAR HOSPITAL AND OTHERS

The struggle for reproductive self-determination has specific significance for women and girls in India, where a maternal death occurs every five minutes. This case was brought on behalf of Shanti Devi, a woman living in poverty from a Scheduled Caste after she died as the result of being refused adequate maternal healthcare even though she qualified for the free services under existing state-sponsored schemes. While delivering the judgment, Justice Muralidhar emphasized that the Indian Government is obligated to ensure maternal health services under the judicially- recognized constitutional rights to health and reproductive rights. Drawing on international law Justice Muralidhar underlined that women have the right to control their bodies and decide when they wish to conceive. The Court also pointed out that women carry the burden of poverty in that they have to prove their BPL status when trying to access health facilities and accordingly ordered that, “No pregnant women be denied access to medical treatment regardless of her social-economic status”. 

CONCLUSION-

This country has seen many great judges and in this dynamic world there is a need for several statement changes in the legal arena and Dr. Justice S. Muralidhar has brought so many substantial changes that not only strengthens the legal provisions securing the society but also bring about the correct wave of change in the society.

 

 

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