The Supreme Court on Friday took suo motu cognizance of the “unfortunate” “sad demise” of a judge in “gruesome incident” of being allegedly mowed down by a vehicle while on morning jog on July 28 at Dhanbad and sought a status report within a week from Jharkhand's Chief Secretary and the DGP on probe, saying reports and video clippings suggested “it was not a case of simplicitor road accident.”
“This gruesome incident has been widely reported in newspapers, and video clippings of the incident are also being circulated on social media platforms, suggesting that it was not a case of simplicitor road accident,” said a bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana said.
While making it very clear that it was not interfering in the proceedings going on before the High Court of Jharkhand, the bench said it was taking suo motu cognizance of the matter as incidents of attacks on judicial officers and the legal fraternity are happening across country.
“Having regard to the seriousness of the issue and its larger ramifications, we direct the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police, State of Jharkhand to jointly submit a status report of inquiry vis-a-vis the sad demise of the Judicial Officer Shri Uttam Anand, with the Registry of this Court within a week's time,” said the bench which also comprised justice Surya Kant.
The bench said it has been brought to the notice that similar incidents are happening across the country.
“Taking into consideration the duty and obligation of the State to create an environment and accord full protection to judicial officers as well as the legal fraternity so that they can perform their duties fearlessly, we deem it appropriate to take up this matter suo motu,” the bench said in its order and also sought assistance of Attorney General K K Venugopal.
This court is cognizant of the fact that the High Court of Jharkhand has taken note of the nature of the incident and has initiated necessary action to ensure that the State Government protects the law and order situation within and outside the Court premises, the order said.
“As there is an urgent need for wider consideration and consequential detailed explanation(s) by all concerned, we will consider the desirability of issuing notice to all other States and Union Territories on the next date of hearing on August 6,” the order said and sought presence of Jharkhand's Advocate General on next hearing.
The case has been titled as "In Re Safeguarding Courts and Protecting Judges (Death of Additional Sessions Judge, Dhanbad)".
On Thursday, the top court said the Chief Justice of Jharkhand High Court has already taken up the matter related to the alleged killing of the judicial officer after senior advocate and SCBA President Vikas Singh mentioned the matter and said this is a “brazen attack” on the independence of judiciary.
CCTV footages showed that District and Sessions Judge-8 of Dhanbad court, Uttam Anand , was jogging on one side of a fairly wide road at Randhir Verma Chowk early on Wednesday when a heavy auto-rickshaw veered towards him, hit him from behind and fled the scene.
Locals took him to a nearby hospital, where the doctors declared him dead on arrival.
On Wednesday, the Jharkhand High Court ordered an SIT probe into the death of Anand, under the leadership of Additional Director General of Police Sanjay Latkar after taking cognizance of a letter filed before the court by the Dhanbad principal district judge in the case.
Chief Justice Ravi Ranjan of the high court had converted it into a writ petition, and ordered the formation of the SIT. He said the CJI had spoken to him in the matter, and expressed confidence that a fair investigation will be carried out in the case.
The high court stated it will monitor the probe and sought updates from the SIT from time to time.
If at any point in time it appears to the court that the investigation is not heading in the right direction, then the case will be handed over to the CBI, the high court had said.
The Jharkhand police Thursday arrested two persons, auto driver Lakhan Verma and his helper Rahul Verma, in connection with the case.
The arrests were made following the recovery of the three-wheeler involved in the incident, Senior Superintendent of Police, Dhanbad, Sanjiv Kumar, had said, adding the three-wheeler recovered from Giridih is registered in a woman's name.