The Supreme Court has rightly taken suo motu cognisance of the death of a district and sessions judge in Dhanbad, asking the Jharkhand state authorities to submit a status report within a week on the investigation being conducted into the incident. Making it clear that it was concerned about the attacks on judicial officers in the country, the action by the apex court comes after the Jharkhand High Court had taken up the matter and set up a special investigation team to probe the incident. The death of the judge, in an alleged hit-and-run case, while on a morning walk, has created a nationwide uproar because of the circumstances in which it has taken place. Ironically, the place where the mishap took place is named after a senior police officer who himself was gunned down in 1991 while trying to prevent a bank robbery.
The district has some of the largest coal mines and has been a hub of both mafia activity and trade unionism, testing the mettle of the administration in checking the spiralling crime graph. The state minister in charge of the district has cautioned about reaching a conclusion about the incident — whether it was pre-planned or an accident — and the responsibility will lie on the investigating team to rule out foul play and ascertain the truth to ensure that justice is dispensed. Nothing could be a travesty of justice more than the suspicious death of a judge.
While the Supreme Court has expressed its concern over the environment in which judicial officers work, steps need to be taken to ensure that they are provided with the necessary wherewithal like security and their protection is taken care of. It is not unusual for judges, or for that matter, members of other services to face threat to lives in the discharge of their duty, more so while taking action against criminals with political patronage. But the cause of justice is the cause of humanity and the court should ensure that the police inquiry reaches its logical conclusion.