The Supreme Court on Friday said Central agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Intelligence Bureau and State police forces chose to ignore complaints from judges about abusive messages and threats even as attacks on the judiciary were on the rise.
The court suggested the formation of a special force to protect judges, especially trial judges who decide criminal cases involving high-profile accused.
“We have seen that in criminal cases involving high-profile people, there is a new trend of maligning judges. There is no freedom for judges to work. The CBI, the police, the IB do not help the judiciary. I am making this statement with some sense of responsibility… In several cases across the country involving gangsters and high-profile and powerful accused, they threaten judges, not just physically but also mentally through abusive messages, peeping into judges’ online accounts, etc. We are very sorry to say that the CBI did nothing about complaints made to it… There is still no change in the attitude of the CBI,” Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana said.
Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal, who was asked to assist the court, related an incident of a Magistrate who was threatened on the eve of taking up a case against some gangsters. “His daughter’s life was threatened. So, given a choice between his daughter’s life and doing justice, he adjourned the case… Judges as a class are more vulnerable, say, than bureaucrats,” the top law officer said.
The court asked whether Jharkhand had “washed its hands off” any responsibility of investigating the daylight murder of Jharkhand judge Uttam Anand by transferring the case to the CBI. The court said the judge’s death was a result of the Jharkhand government’s “negligence” to protect its judges. The CJI said the State government chose to ignore threats to judges like Mr. Anand, who was working in Dhanbad district, where the powerful coal mafia reigns.
“A young judge lost his life because of the negligence of Jharkhand government,” Chief Justice Ramana said about the tragic death.
The court pooh-poohed Jharkhand’s claim that it had built boundary walls around judges’ colonies. “And you think boundary walls will keep away hardened criminals?” Justice Surya Kant asked Jharkhand Advocate General Rajiv Ranjan.
Mr. Venugopal said the frequent attack on judges, including judges of the High Courts, highlighted the need for the formation of a special body to protect the judiciary and ascertain the danger to them.
Chief Justice said judges functioning in courts were not protected from anti-social elements entering court complexes and resorting to violence and threats.
“There should be some security measures… the creation of a special force, similar to the Railway Police Force, to protect judges. An environment should be created so that judges can work without fear,” Chief Justice Ramana said.
The Bench asked the Central and the State governments to file status reports on the kind of security provided to subordinate and High Court judiciary.
On Judge Anand’s death, the court directed the CBI to be represented on Monday. “We want to hear the CBI,” Chief Justice Ramana said.
Mr. Ranjan, for Jharkhand, explained that the case was handed over to the CBI on July 30 because a 22-member Special Investigation Team of the State Police, which was initially charged with the probe, found “lots of evidence” showing “larger conspiracy with cross-border implications”. He said two drivers had been arrested and were interrogated by the police team in the case.
Judge Anand was fatally knocked down by a vehicle while he was out for his morning jog in Dhanbad.