Recently, an online portal Boom Live, which incidentally is accredited by IFCN (International Fact-Checking Network) as a fact-checker, ran a story about Justice Muralidhar’s transfer from Delhi court. The story was hosted by none other than the controversial journalist Faye D’Souza, who insinuated that Justice Muralidhar was abruptly transferred by the central government after he pulled up the government and the Delhi Police in a midnight hearing in the Delhi anti-CAA riots.
In her video, Faye asserted that Justice Muralidhar was summarily transferred by the central government because of his critical remarks against the Delhi Police and his directives to the police to issue FIRs against politicians alleged of making provocative speeches.
“It was Justice Muralidhar who instructed the police to file an FIR against these politicians who made inflammatory speeches. What happened then? Justice Muralidhar was transferred overnight. The next day the case went to the different judge who basically reversed the decision by granting 4 weeks to Delhi Police to file an FIR into the case,” Faye said.
She also added that judiciary should be functioning without favour or fear but if the “judges are transferred overnight without notice”, that would cause some level of fear amongst the judges, imperilling their ability to carry out their jobs in the spirit of law.
There are multi-level lies and insinuations laced in Faye’s assertions published by ‘fact‑checker’ Boom Live. Faye has asserted that Justice Muralidhar’s opinion and consent was not sought before his transfer and that he was transferred abruptly by the government for his disapproving remarks.
However, Boom Live clearly did not let the facts obstruct them from peddling propaganda against the government. The Union Government didn’t transfer Justice Muralidhar after an overnight decision, and the government can’t even transfer or appoint judges to the higher judiciary on its own. His transfer was recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium on February 12 itself, days before his midnight judgement after the Delhi riots, and the law ministry merely issued the notification as per the decision of the collegium. It may be noted that transfers and appointment in the higher judiciary are in the hand of the Collegium, and the govt has no role in it. Apart from justice Muralidhar, the SC Collegium had also recommended the transfer of justice Ranjit C More from Bombay to Meghalaya High Court, and justice Ravi V Malimath from Karnataka to Uttarakhand High Court.
Union Law Minister RS Prasad had rubbished several reports that said that the government has exacted revenge on Justice Muralidhar for his withering remarks in Delhi riots case by transferring him. Prasad tweeted that the transfer was done as per recommendation dated 12.02.2020 of the Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice of India. He also informed that before transferring the judge, his consent was taken, and well-settled process in such matters have been followed.
Transfer of Hon’ble Justice Muralidhar was done pursuant to the recommendation dated 12.02.2020 of the Supreme Court collegium headed by Chief Justice of India. While transferring the judge consent of the judge is taken. The well settled process have been followed.
— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) February 27, 2020
In an article published in the Hindu on February 21, days before violence engulfed the National Capital, it was reported that Justice Muralidhar had agreed for transfer willingly. “His consent was taken before transferring him. It is a routine one,” the source quoted by The Hindu said.
Clearing the air around the unnecessary controversy surrounding his transfer, Justice Muralidhar yesterday claimed that he was informed much in advance about his transfer. “I was informed on February 17 from CJI about the Collegium’s recommendation of my transfer to Punjab and Haryana Court and I had no problems with it,” Justice Muralidhar said.
In addition, Faye also insinuated that Justice Muralidhar’s “sudden” transfer happened to remove him from Delhi riots hearing after his criticism of Delhi Police. However, this assertion too is a lie because even if he was not transferred, he was not scheduled to hear the case further. The reason is, the case was not even listed for Justice Muralidhar’s court. The case was listed before the Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, and justice Muralidhar had heard the case in urgency as the Chief Justice was absent on that day. The case was not transferred to his court, it remained listed under the CJ, so subsequently the case was to be heard by the CJ only, even if justice Muralidhar had remained in Delhi High Court.
The cause list of the Delhi High Court for February 27 shows that the case was to be heard by the Chief Justice at 2 PM.
The above evidence, freely available in public domain should have deterred Boom Live, ostensibly a Fact-Checker, from fuelling unfounded apprehensions about the state of judiciary in India but they continued to malign the government, regardless of the facts suggesting otherwise. Ironically, Faye peddled these unadulterated lies on Boom Live on her show titled as “Truth as be told”.
It is pertinent to note that Boom Live is an IFCN accredited fact-checker and yet, it blatantly indulged in publishing fake news to attack the central government without bothering to verify the facts in the matter. Moreover, the lies surrounding Justice Muralidhar’s transfer were debunked on February 27 itself, by the law minister, OpIndia, and many others, but still Boom Live published the video with the same lies one week later. This calls into question the significance of IFCN’s accreditation and casts aspersions on standards observed by IFCN in granting recognition.
The International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN) recently came under severe criticism for its dubious and differing yardsticks to grant the Fact-Checking accreditation. While Indian portal Fact Hunt was rejected its partnership based on its founder’s old congratulatory tweets to PM Modi, the organisation had no qualms in continuing their association with habitual fake-news peddler Altnews, despite its owners’ overt support to political parties and flagrant violations of its policies.
Responding to the criticism, Baybars Orsek, director of IFCN, announced that they had asked AltNews a set of questions and after being satisfied with their response which was replete with lies, they concluded that there was no ground for any action against Altnews.
The accreditation from such a dubious organisation holds no value as not one but many of its signatories have been found showing scant regards for the facts on multiple occasions. Besides Boom Live and Altnews, Indiaspend is also one of the signatories of IFCN. Indiaspend was guilty of instituting a ‘Hate-tracker’ that notoriously displayed selective instances of communal violence in India to portray that violence against Muslims in India has increased after PM Modi came to power.