The Supreme Court on Tuesday imposed costs of ₹1 lakh on States which failed to file counter affidavits detailing measures taken for protection of judges [In re: Safeguarding courts and protecting judges (death of Additional Sessions Judge, Dhanbad)].
A Bench of Chief Justice of India NV Ramana and Justices Surya Kant and Aniruddha Bose directed such States to file their responses within 10 days subject to deposit of costs.
In case of failure to do the same, the Court will seek the presence of Chief Secretaries of the concerned States, the Bench cautioned.
"The remaining States which have not filed their counter affidavits so far shall also file the same within a period of 10 days from today, subject to deposit of costs of Rs.1,00,000/ with the Supreme Court Bar Association Advocates’ Welfare Fund, failing which we would be compelled to seek the presence of the Chief Secretaries of the concerned States," the order said.
The Court was hearing a suo motu case on protection of judges taken up in light of the recent killing of Dhanbad judge, Uttam Anand.
Appearing for the Central government, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had already issued guidelines for the safety of judges back in 2007.
"State special branch will have intelligence and home department. It will review the security given and Registrar General of the High Court can also oversee. Judiciary's oversight is inbuilt in the mechanism. These special units have to be created by the states and union territories. In 2020, these guidelines were reiterated. Hence, new revised system is not needed."
CJI Ramana then said,
"You can call states and take a decision on how the problem will be dealt with."
To which the SG replied,
"We have said it may not be advisable or possible to have a national level security force for judges as state level cadre will come into these specialised forces...instead of creating a specialised or dedicated police force there is need to ensure fuller implementation of guidelines by MHA for states and UTs."
Justice Kant weighed in, saying,
"Guidelines are fine...criminal habits are different etc. Question is whether these guidelines are followed or not for protection of judges, courts etc. Burden of implementing the guidelines is on Supreme Court now. You are Central government. You can call DGPs. You are the best person to get this done. States are now saying they don't have funds for CCTVs etc. These issues you have to resolve between you and states. We don't want to call these excuses..."
The Court ultimately granted States ten days to filed counter affidavits.
After the killing of Judge Uttam Anand in Dhanbad, Jharkhand, the Supreme Court had, on July 30, registered a suo motu case on safeguarding courts and ensuring protection and security of judges.
On the last date of hearing, the Court had observed that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has not submitted anything concrete in its status report with the regard to the probe into the killing of Judge Anand. On that date, the Court issued notice to all states and sought status reports from them.
Previously, the Court berated the CBI and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) stating that they do not help the judiciary at all even when complaints are lodged by judges alleging threats faced by them. The top court had also directed the Chief Secretary and Director General of Police of Jharkhand to submit a status report on the investigation within a week.
Note: An earlier version of the piece said that the Supreme Court warned States of imposition of costs. The order uploaded on Supreme Court website, however, states that costs have been imposed. The article has been edited accordingly. Error regretted.