The Supreme Court Bar Association, through its president and senior advocate Vikas Singh, on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to take suo motu cognisance of the alleged murder of Additional District Judge Uttam Anand at Dhanbad in Jharkhand while he was out for his morning jog.
Making an urgent oral mention before a Bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah, Mr. Singh said the crime was an attack on the institution of judiciary and its independence.
The CCTV footage, Mr. Singh said, shows a vehicle suddenly swerving off the road and slamming into the Additional District Judge from behind on a lonely stretch of road early on July 28 morning. He was found bleeding on the road and taken to the hospital where he was left unidentified for hours. The police finally traced the body after the family gave a missing person’s complaint. His family, who initially thought the cause of death to be a hit-and-run accident, filed a complaint for murder after viewing the CCTV footage. Mr. Singh said the footage was evidence and should be taken on record.
Justice Chandrachud advised Mr. Singh to make a mention after sending an email to the Chief Justice of India and the Registrar in charge of mentioning process in the court.
“Our judicial officers should be protected. If judiciary has to be independent, we have to come in very sternly,” Mr. Singh submitted. Justice Chandrachud asked Mr. Singh to take up the issue with the Chief Justice of India.
Judge Anand’s death comes close on the heels of a July 22 judgment authored by Justice Chandrachud had turned the spotlight on the “appalling work conditions” of the district judiciary. The observations in Justice Chandrachud’s judgment concerned an order passed by a trial judge in Madhya Pradesh revealing that he was facing threats in a case concerning the murder case in which the husband of a BSP MLA was the prime accused.
The Supreme Court, in its judgment, had highlighted how “judges are targeted simply for standing up for what is right, and sadly, a subservience to the administration of the High Court for transfers and postings which renders them vulnerable,” Justice Chandrachud elaborated the odds faced everyday by subordinate judges.
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.