The Jharkhand High Court on Thursday took suo motu cognizance of the death of a judge who was hit by a vehicle the previous day, reported Bar and Bench.
The police in Jharkhand have formed a special investigation team to look into the death of Dhanbad Additional Sessions Judge Uttam Kumar, reported the Hindustan Times. The team was formed after CCTV footage showed an autorickshaw suddenly swerving towards Kumar, who was walking on an empty road, and hitting him. The vehicle then drove away.
Dhanbad Senior Superintendent of Police Sanjeev Kumar said city Superintendent of Police R Ramkumar will lead the team. “The CCTV footage and all related aspects would be analysed [to] identify the vehicle,” Kumar said.
Kumar said that a murder case has been registered and the police were looking into all possible angles, reported The Indian Express.
The police on Thursday morning arrested the driver of the autorickshaw and his alleged associate, Times Now reported. “Two accused have been arrested in this case,” Advocate General Rajiv Ranjan told ANI. “Various angles are being considered and investigated. [A] Special Investigation Team has been constituted.”
After the accident, residents in the area took the judge to the Shaheed Nirmal Mahato Medical College and Hospital. “He [Judge Anand] had sustained an injury to the back of his head,” said Arun Kumar Choudhary, the superintendent of the hospital. “He succumbed to his injuries around 8.30 am.”
In her complaint to the police, the judge’s wife, Kriti Sinha, said that her husband had left the house at 5 am. She said that when he did not return for long, the family started looking for him. As the residents who took him to the hospital did not know who the judge was, his body was later identified by his driver at the hospital.
Jharkhand High Court Chief Justice Ravi Ranjan ordered the Dhanbad senior superintendent of police to be present before the court on Thursday.
The matter was also brought up in the Supreme Court by the Bar Association. After this, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said he had spoken to Ranjan. “The High Court Chief Justice has taken up the issue and the case is now on at the High Court,” Ramana said, according to NDTV. “We are aware of the case and we will take care.”
Around the same time, Supreme Court lawyer Vikas Singh also spoke about the judge’s death before a bench, led by Justice DY Chandrachud, who said he would inform Ramana.
“It is a brazen attack on judiciary,” Singh said, according to NDTV. “This is a matter which should go to the CBI. The local police is usually complicit in such matters. A judge is on a morning walk and is hit by a vehicle. He was dealing with bail applications of gangsters. This is an attack on judicial independence.”
Justice Anand had been hearing the sensitive murder case of Ranjay Singh, who was a close confidante of former Jharia MLA Sanjiv Singh, The Times of India reported. The judge had also denied bail to Ravi Thakur, a protégé of infamous Uttar Pradesh shooter Abhinav Singh and Aman Singh, just three days ago.
Prabhat Sinha, a Jharkhand High Court lawyer, has alleged that it was not an accident but a case of murder. “The CCTV footage clearly shows that the auto driver intentionally hit the judge,” he said.
Sahebganj District and Session Judge Bansidhar Tiwari, who is also the secretary of Jharkhand Judicial Service Association, has demanded that the High Court conduct a high-level investigation into the incident, reported The Telegraph. He also claimed that the CCTV footage clearly showed foul play behind Anand’s death.
Health and Family Welfare Minister Banna Gupta has sought a report on the incident from Dhanbad Deputy Commissioner Sandeep Kumar and the senior superintendent of police.
Jharkhand Bar Council member Hemant Sikarwal called the incident “intentional murder” and demanded a CBI investigation into the incident.