SC says Dhanbad judge death case has wider ramifications

CCTV footage shows the vehicle suddenly veering towards the judge.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Spurred by the murder of a judge in Jharkhand, the Supreme Court on Friday took suo motu cognisance of the mounting concerns about the dangers faced by the subordinate judiciary, especially trial judges, in the line of duty.

A Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) noted that the death of Judge Uttam Anand, who was fatally knocked down by a vehicle while he was out for a morning jog in Dhanbad on Wednesday, had “wider ramifications” on the independence of the judiciary.

The suo motu case has been titled ‘In Re: Safeguarding courts and protecting judges (death of Additional Sessions Judge, Dhanbad).

The Supreme Court said it would be focussing on the larger aspects of the case, including the threats and appalling working conditions in which trial judges’ function. The Bench said its suo motu case would not interfere in any manner with the inquiry opened by the Jharkhand High Court on Thursday specifically into the judge’s death.

“The Dhanbad case has wider ramifications. We are getting reports that judicial officers are under attack across the country. We want to examine this issue and may seek reports from the States,” the CJI observed.

The court, to start with, asked the Jharkhand government and the Director General of Police to file their affidavits in a week.

Video footage

A video footage of the incident showed Mr. Anand being knocked down from behind by a vehicle. The incident was initially considered a hit-and-run until the video surfaced, leading to a murder investigation.

The ripples of the judge’s death were felt in the court when the Supreme Court Bar Association president, senior advocate Vikas Singh, mentioned the incident in open court before the CJI, who said he had taken up the issue with the Jharkhand High Court Chief Justice.

Within hours of this interaction in the Supreme Court, Jharkhand Chief Justice Ravi Ranjan suo motu initiated an investigation into the crime and decided to monitor the probe by a special investigation team. Two people, including a man suspected to be the driver of the vehicle, have been arrested.

Judge Anand’s death comes close on the heels of a July 22 judgment authored by Justice Chandrachud that highlighted how judges are targeted simply for standing up for what is right.

The Supreme Court had said the “independence of the judiciary is the independence of each and every judge”. The judgment had also pointed to a larger malaise of application of political pressure on trial judges.

“Judicial independence of the district judiciary is cardinal to the integrity of the entire system. The courts comprised in the district judiciary are the first point of interface with citizens. If the faith of the citizen in the administration of justice has to be preserved, it is to the district judiciary that attention must be focused as well as the ‘higher’ judiciary,” Justice Chandrachud had observed.

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Printable version | Sep 27, 2021 7:44:52 AM |

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