Patna: A judge was allegedly roughed up by Bihar Police personnel at his office in Madhubani district’s Jhanjharpur court Thursday. The Patna High Court held a special hearing on the matter late in the day, and said “prima facie it appears that this episode puts the independence of the judiciary in jeopardy”.
Two police personnel — Gopal Krishna, the officer in charge of a local police station, and Abhimanyu Kumar, an assistant sub-inspector — have been arrested for the suspected attack. They have been booked following a complaint by Additional District and Sessions Judge Avinash Kumar, who was allegedly attacked in the afternoon.
The incident happened after Avinash Kumar heard a case related to the alleged harassment of two women by the police. Gopal Krishna and Abhimanyu Kumar were present at the hearing, which took place at the district legal judicial authority (Lok Adalat).
During the proceedings, the judge raised questions about police’s knowledge of the law. A few days ago, the same judge had made some remarks about Madhubani Superintendent of Police (SP) Satyaprakash, who courted a controversy for dubbing the murder of RTI activist and journalist Avinash Jha as the outcome of a love affair.
Jha, who had been reporting about private clinics that were allegedly being run illegally, was found dead on 12 November. Five people, including employees of a private nursing home, were subsequently arrested in connection with the crime.
According to eyewitnesses, after the hearing, the “enraged” police personnel entered the office of the judge and physically and verbally abused him. A clash ensued between the two policemen and local lawyers.
A DSP-rank officer subsequently came to the court and took the two policemen into custody.
In the FIR, accessed by ThePrint, the judge has alleged that the officer in charge pointed a gun at him and threatened to kill him.
The Madhubani district and sessions judge subsequently wrote a letter to the Patna High Court, which held a special hearing in the evening to discuss the matter.
Chief Justice Rajan Gupta and Justice Mohit Kumar Shah have sent notices to the chief secretary of Bihar, the director general of police (DGP), and principal secretary home. The court has asked the DGP to be personally present in the next hearing on 29 November, and directed him to submit a status report in sealed cover.
The government of Bihar and the Madhubani SP have also been made respondents in the case.
There has been no response from the government so far. “We have sought a report on the incident and there will be action,” an official of the state home department told ThePrint on the condition of anonymity.
‘Abuse vile and unprintable’
Balram Sahu, a lawyer at the Jhanjharpur court, told ThePrint that the “abuse hurled by the policemen was vile and unprintable”.
“What is amazing is that the policemen continued to abuse the judge even after we arrived to save him. The judge was terrified,” he said, describing the incident as “unprecedented”.
“Previously, we used to demand police protection. Now, we will have to ask for protection from police,” he said, calling for the judiciary to “act swiftly or the lawyers will take further steps”. He said the police personnel were angry about the adverse statements made by the judge against the Madhubani SP.
Patna High Court lawyer Chhaya Mishra said the incident was despicable.
“The two policemen were angry with the judge because he had summoned them and, in his earlier judgment, said that the home department should send the Madhubani SP for fresh training,” she said.
“In neighbouring Jharkhand, an additional district judge was knocked down to death in Dhanbad and, in Bihar, police has entered a judge’s office and beaten him up. I appeal to the Patna High Court to take suo motu cognisance of the incident. I also appeal to lawyers not to represent the two policemen even at the bail level,” she added.
The Opposition, meanwhile, lashed out at the Nitish Kumar government on the issue. “Even the courts are not safe in Bihar. It is an example of Nitish Kumar’s claim on good governance. Police had the audacity to beat up a judge in his office,” Rashtriya Janata Dal spokesperson Azaz Ahmad said.
The Patna High Court is closed till Monday.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.