Two get life imprisonment in Dhanbad judge murder case
The sentencing came a year after judge Uttam Anand (49) was run over while he was out on a jog around 5am on July 28, 2021.
A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court has sentenced two men, convicted last month for murdering Dhanbad Additional District and Sessions judge Uttam Anand, to rigorous imprisonment till death, defence lawyer Kumar Bimlendu said on Saturday.
A fine of ₹30,000 has also been imposed on both the convicts.
The sentencing came a year after judge Anand (49) was run over while he was out on a morning jog around 5am on July 28, 2021. Security camera footage showed he was jogging on one side of a fairly wide road when an auto-rickshaw veered towards him, hit him from behind and fled the scene.
The Jharkhand high court was monitoring the probe into the hit-and-run. The trial began in February this year as the special court framed charges against the two accused, auto driver Lakhan Verma (22) and his accomplice Rahul Verma (21) -- both from Digwadih in Dhanbad. They were arrested around a month after the murder and were not granted bail.
On July 28 this year, a sessions court in Jharkhand’s Dhanbad held both Lakhan and Rahul guilty under sections 302 (murder), 201 (destruction of evidence) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
During the trial, the prosecution said that the murder was planned and sought capital punishment for the two convicts. The defence, on the other hand, sought minimum punishment for the two, citing their young age and first offence. The court, however, granted the convicts life sentence till death.
After the verdict, defence counsel Kumar Bimlendu said: “After hearing the arguments of the prosecution and the defence, the court sentenced Lakhan and Rahul Verma to life imprisonment till death. It means that the two convicts will have to spend their entire life in jail and would not be able to avail the benefits of possible remission of sentence under section 357 (A) of CrPC. We are likely to get the final order by Tuesday. We will challenge the conviction before a higher court.”
Vishal Anand, brother-in-law of judge Anand, said they were expecting capital punishment for the convicts. “The judiciary has given its verdict. We honour that. But we are of the view that they should have been granted capital punishment. Our family member would not return. But this crime needs to be seen as an attack on judiciary. A lighter punishment would further embolden criminals,” he said.
The attack on judge Anand was seen as an “attack on judicial independence” and Chief Justice of India NV Ramana has previously said that he had spoken to the Chief Justice of Jharkhand high court on the matter.
The Supreme Court and the Jharkhand high court took suo motu cognisance of the hit-and-run incident after CCTV footage showed the three-wheeler swerving on an empty road to knock him down.
The Jharkhand government subsequently handed over the investigation to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which re-registered the case and filed the charge sheet in October last year. The sessions court framed charges on February 2 this year, and after 35 hearings, completed the trial.
The prosecution has examined 58 witnesses, including a team of 40 experts comprising doctors, scientists and forensic experts, to substantiate the case. The defence, however, had pleaded that it was not an intentional hit and the only charge the accused could attract was 304 (culpable homicide not amounting to murder).