Dhanbad/Ranchi: The special investigation team (SIT) formed by Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren to look into the death of Dhanbad additional district judge Uttam Anand has ruled out “criminal conspiracy” as a factor, calling the hit-and-run an unfortunate “road accident”, ThePrint has learnt.
A source in the SIT said the drivers of the vehicle that hit the judge on 28 July were high on a cocktail of the medicine N10 or Nitrosun 10 — a drug prescribed for patients of epilepsy, insomnia and anxiety disorders — and illicit liquor.
Judge Anand, 49, was out on his morning walk near his home at Dhanbad’s Judge Colony around 5 am when he was fatally struck by a three-wheeler, seemingly a tempo.
CCTV footage of the incident has raised suspicions because it shows the vehicle veering to the left of the road right behind Anand — who is seen jogging on the edge — before hitting him. The vehicle is then seen being driven away from the location, without as much as stopping for a second after impact.
Four arrests have been made in the case so far. Two of them have been identified as Lakhan Kumar Verma and Rahul Verma, who had allegedly stolen the vehicle. They have been identified as “small-time miscreants” and were allegedly in the vehicle at the time of the accident.
The third arrest is the shopkeeper who is believed to have sold them the drug, and the fourth is the owner of the vehicle.
The exact sections invoked against the accused aren’t known because police have refused to share details of the investigation.
Judge Anand’s family has alleged foul play in his death.
At the time of his death, Anand was hearing two high-profile cases – one was the bail plea of Abhinav Singh and Ravi Thakur, two acquaintances of the suspected Uttar Pradesh gangster Aman Singh, who is under arrest, and the second centred on the 2017 murder of Ranjay Singh, a close aide of former MLA Sanjeev Singh, who is reportedly in jail in connection with the alleged murder, also in 2017, of a deputy mayor.
The suspicious circumstances of Anand’s death have also sparked calls from the judicial fraternity for ensuring the security of judges at subordinate courts.
The SIT, which is led by Additional Director General of Police (ADG) Sanjay Anand Lautkar, was formed on 29 July.
Last week, the Jharkhand High Court and the Supreme Court took suo motu cognisance of the matter. While the high court Thursday asked the SIT to submit its report by 3 August, saying it will monitor the progress of the investigation, the SC Friday told the Jharkhand Chief Secretary and police chief to submit a status report on the investigation within a week.
On 31 July, the Jharkhand government recommended the case for a CBI inquiry. “This was done since this case is a high-profile death and the judiciary is now heavily involved,” a senior police officer said.
Reached for a response on the findings of the SIT, Jharkhand Police spokesperson Amol Homkar refused to comment.
“The investigation of this case cannot be shared with the media yet since the case is still ongoing. As and when there is a suitable update the media will be informed,” he added.
On Monday, after this report was published, Dhanbad Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Sanjiv Kumar, also a member of the SIT, denied they had reached any conclusion.
“We are still investigating the incident and studying the facts. We have reached no conclusions yet. Whatever the findings are will be presented to the court in due time,” he said.
What led to the ‘accident’
A senior police officer who is in the SIT, speaking to ThePrint on the condition of anonymity, said Lakhan Kumar Verma and Rahul Verma “were under the influence of illicit liquor” while driving the vehicle, and had also consumed Nitrosun 10 tablets.
Nitrosun 10 contains Nitrazepam, a ‘benzodiazepine’ with sedative/hypnotic properties that is used in patients with insomnia, anxiety disorders and epilepsy (to prevent seizures). It helps increase the levels of GABA, a chemical messenger that reduces the abnormal activity of brain cells.
Driving while on the medicine is explicitly prohibited.
It could potentially have a habit-forming tendency if taken for a long duration or in larger doses. Stopping its consumption abruptly can cause withdrawal symptoms like convulsions, behavioural disorder, tremors, and anxiety, etc.
The driver, the officer said, “had previously been affected by a paralysis attack leading to poor functioning in the left part of the driver’s body, which resulted in the accident”. Who among the two was driving was not clarified by the officer.
The officer described the accused as “small-time miscreants”.
“The CCTV footage also has been studied very carefully and no foul play has been found,” the police officer added.
According to the autopsy report of the deceased judge, accessed by ThePrint, he died “due to injury caused by a hard and blunt substance causing severe head injury”.
“This resulted in subdural hematoma (a ‘type of bleed inside your head’) and a skull fracture. Multiple injuries in the back were also recorded,” it said.
Elaborating on this, the police officer said the “footage has revealed that judge Anand hit his head on a rock after falling to the ground”.
“The injuries in his back were due to the hit from the tempo,” the officer added.
Family pins hopes on CBI
Anand’s brother Suman Shambhu has claimed that his death is a “planned murder”.
Responding to the SIT findings, he told ThePrint, “I will wait for the CBI to declare its final verdict in the case. Until then, I have no comments on any investigation.”
Dhanbad Bar Council president A.K. Sahai said the judge had not been in the court long enough to have any “party motivated enough to kill him”.
“Judge Uttam joined the Dhanbad court in the middle of the pandemic. During this time, only bail pleas were being heard since the court was functioning online and getting evidence out is not possible,” he added.
Talking about the high-profile cases in his court, he said, “When it comes to Ranjay Singh’s murder, it is a case that is years old, why kill the judge now? It makes no sense. And for the Aman Singh gang members, judge Anand was the second judge to reject their bail plea.
“It is quite likely, that if it is a conspiracy, it is from some case that he dealt with before joining his service in Dhanbad.
This report has been updated with the response of the Dhanbad SSP
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)
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