The Jharkhand High Court has directed the Special Investigation Team probing the death of a Dhanbad judge to submit its report by August 3, Bar and Bench reported on Saturday. The division bench of Chief Justice Ravi Ranjan and Justice Sujit Narayan was hearing a suo motu case regarding the death of Dhanbad Additional Sessions Judge Uttam Anand, who was hit by a vehicle on July 28.

“We want a speedy, fair and professional investigation in the matter,” the court said.

The police in Jharkhand formed the SIT after CCTV footage showed an autorickshaw suddenly swerving towards Anand, who was walking on an empty road, and hitting him. The vehicle then drove away.

The bench also directed the Jharkhand director general of police to inform the court about the crime rate in the state post January, 2020.

“We are directing the S.I.T. to submit a report on the next date of hearing,” read the court’s order. “Let an affidavit be filed disclosing as to when the information regarding the occurrence was received by the police and the time when the F.I.R. was registered. Let an information be also given to us as to whether the procedure of post mortem was video-graphed or not?”

The court also expressed its concern over the death of the judge. “Apprehending a pawn is meaningless unless the conspiracy is fully uncovered and the mastermind is nabbed,” it said. “Time would be essence of matter in this investigation. Delay as well as well as any flaw in investigation may eventually affect the trial adversely.”

On Thursday, the Jharkhand Police had arrested the driver of the autorickshaw and his alleged associate.

Justice Anand had been hearing the murder case of Ranjay Singh, who was a close confidante of former Jharia MLA Sanjiv Singh. 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.

On Friday, the Supreme Court of India also registered a suo motu case on safeguarding courts and ensuring protection and security of judges. “This Dhanbad case has wider ramifications,” Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said. “We are getting reports that judicial officers are being attacked around the country. We intend to examine this and may seek report from all states.”

The bench of Chief Justice Ramana and Justice Surya Kant sought a status report on the investigation from Jharkhand’s Chief Secretary Sukhdev Singh and Director General of Police Niraj Sinha within a week.

Apprehensions about the ‘accident’

The judge’s wife, Kriti Sinha, had told the police in her complaint that her husband had left the house at 5 am. She said that when he did not return for a long time, the family started looking for him. As people who took him to the hospital did not know who the judge was, his body was only later identified by his driver.

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. He also claimed that the CCTV footage clearly showed foul play behind Anand’s death.

Jharkhand Bar Council member Hemant Sikarwal called the incident “intentional murder” and demanded a CBI investigation into the incident.

State 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.