Dhanbad judge death: SC seeks report from Jharkhand within a week

The Supreme Court on Friday took suo motu cognizance of the death of a judicial officer in Jharkhand on Thursday and sought a status report on the investigation conducted so far from the chief secretary and director general of police (DGP) of the state within a week.

Additional district and sessions judge of Dhanbad Uttam Anand was on his morning walk when he was fatally knocked down by a vehicle on Wednesday.

A bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana and justice Surya Kant took suo motu cognizance of the incident and registered the case as “Re: Safeguarding Courts and Protecting Judges (Death of ASJ Dhanbad)”. The Jharkhand high court has already taken suo motu cognizance of the incident on Thursday and has set up a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the killing.

Quoting Jharkhand police officials newspaper The Indian Express reported that they are investigating the possibility of the incident being linked to an order or any action by the judge. No link has yet been revealed, said sources.

According to local court records examined by The Indian Express, ASJ Anand passed 36 orders in July, of which 34 pertained to regular or anticipatory pleas for bail in cases ranging from murder to coal smuggling — he allowed the pleas in six.

On Thursday, police detained autorickshaw drivers Lakhan Verma and Rahul Verma who, they said, were nabbed with the “stolen auto” that hit the judge. “Lakhan and Rahul have said that they drove the autorickshaw that hit the judge.

However, the motive is not clear yet. The auto was stolen from Jharia on Tuesday night. Both are being questioned and will be arrested and sent to judicial custody,” Bokaro DIG Mayur Patel said.

“I spoke to the Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court. He has taken up the case and all officers are asked to be present. Now leave it there. If it’s necessary then we will involve (ourselves),” the CJI told Singh.

According to report, Singh sought a CBI probe to find out if the hit-and-run was a “murder” in retaliation for the judge rejecting the “bail applications of gangsters”. The bench asked him not to draw conclusions. “We are aware of it. Let the HC look at it”, the CJI said.

The report said that Dhanbad court records show that the 36 orders passed by ASJ Anand in July also cover cases of alleged sexual harassment, sale of fake lottery tickets and the alleged diversion of scholarships meant for minority school students.

ASJ Anand was also the Motor vehicle Accidents Claims Tribunal judge. In one of these cases, the vehicle involved was an autorickshaw, and the judge observed that there was “rash and negligent driving”. He awarded Rs 9 lakh in compensation to the deceased’s family. In another case at the tribunal, he had awarded Rs 68 lakh to the wife of an accident victim.

According to local police, Wednesday’s hit-and-run occurred at Randhir Verma Chowk. Around 5.30 am, police said, a passerby took Anand to Shahid Nirmal Mahto Medical College and Hospital where he succumbed to a serious head injury.

ASJ Anand joined the judicial services on May 29, 2002, and was previously posted in Bokaro. He took charge as ASJ Dhanbad on September 18 last year.

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