The death of a judge in Jharkhand on Wednesday in what was initially believed to be a hit-and-run has taken a chilling turn with security footage of the incident leading to a murder investigation. As the killing generated shock and rage, Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said he had spoken to the Jharkhand High Court and asserted: "We are aware of the case and we will take care."
The driver of an auto-rickshaw that hit District and Additional Judge Uttam Anand in Dhanbad has been arrested along with an associate, the police say. The Jharkhand High Court has reacted sharply to allegations of a delay in police action.
Judge Uttam Anand was on his morning run yesterday when he was hit by "an unidentified vehicle" just half a km from his home in Dhanbad.
CCTV footage that has surfaced online shows the judge jogging at around 5 am by a deserted stretch of road as an auto takes a turn and appears to go straight for him. The auto rams the judge and drives off.
धनबाद के ज़िला सत्र जज उत्तम आनंद का बुधवार सुबह मोर्निंग वॉक में एक ऑटो के ठक्कर में मौत का मामला गहराता जा रहा हैं @ndtvindia @Anurag_Dwary pic.twitter.com/oV3m3Ca6x0— manish (@manishndtv) July 28, 2021
Judge Anand was found lying on the road, bleeding, by a man who took him to hospital. He died in hospital, according to the police. He remained unidentified, however, for hours.
His family reported him missing when he did not return at 7 am. The police finally tracked him down to the hospital and established him as the man who had died in the accident.
The police say the CCTV footage makes it clear the auto hit him deliberately. Investigations have revealed the vehicle was stolen.
"Two people -- Lakhan Kumar Verma and Rahul Verma -- have been arrested and the auto was seized. They have confessed," said Amol Vinukant Homkar, Inspector General.
The family of the driver claims he told them he had "won the lottery". "He told us he had won a lottery of Rs 80,000 and had used it to buy an auto and a mobile phone," said Rinki Devi, his wife.
Judge Anand had been handling many cases of mafia killings in Dhanbad town and had recently rejected the bail requests of two gangsters. The murder case of Ranjay Singh, a close aide of MLA Sanjeev Singh, was also pending before his court.
His family alleges that the police delayed changing the case from "accident" to murder.
Jharkhand Chief Justice Ravi Ranjan expressed dissatisfaction over the alleged delay in filing an FIR and warned of a CBI probe if the police were found wanting.
The killing caused an outcry in the Supreme Court.
When the Supreme Court Bar Association raised it before him, Chief Justice NV Ramana said he had spoken with the Jharkhand Chief Justice. "The High Court Chief Justice has taken up the issue and the case is now on at the High Court. We are aware of the case and we will take care," Justice Ramana said.
Earlier, referring to the judge's death before a bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud, lawyer Vikas Singh had said: "It is a brazen attack on judiciary. This is a matter which should go to the CBI. The local police is usually complicit in such matters. It is shocking. 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 Chandrachud said he would inform the Chief Justice.
The judge's death was also informally discussed in another courtroom of the Supreme Court.
"Who shot the video," questioned Justice MR Shah. Vikas Singh said the footage was "not normal CCTV" and was recorded "deliberately" for circulation. "This is very brazen. They want to record it and circulate it. It's not just any CCTV camera because you can hear voices while that is being recorded," Mr Singh told Justice Shah.