A loud no-nonsense cop and a soft-spoken judge who’s barely audible — the personalities of SP Devnarayan Patel and ADJ Anestus Toppo could not have been more different. So when a fight ensued between the two on a busy road last Sunday, they reacted very differently.
The 51-year-old judge retreated in the face of the cop’s fury but worked quietly through the night — getting in touch with his seniors, filing a case and getting himself medically examined but skipping the crucial alcohol test.
The 38-year-old, on the other hand lost his temper, allegedly roughed up the judge, removed the key from the ignition of the judge’s car and was almost certain that he would not be touched because he had been saved from situations like these before.
As things unfolded, leading to Patel’s suspension and the prospect of a possible arrest, something in him snapped. The exact circumstances in which he shot his wife and children, who survived, and turned the gun on himself are still being investigated but, prima facie it appears he was not prepared for what he thought was his “humiliation for acting against a drunk judge” as his suicide note scribbled on the back of his suspension order read.
“I was going to a hospital but stopped due to a traffic jam. The SP came to my car, took out the key and thrashed me,’’ Toppo, who joined the judicial service in 1994, told The Sunday Express. The judge, who hails from Jashpur and was posted in Jagdalpur nearly two years ago, was silent on the question of being drunk and blocking traffic. “I never imagined things would take such a turn,” he said. Those in Patel’s support insist he would not behave badly. “Once he realised who Toppo was he asked his own driver to drop him but the ADJ declined,’’ a policeman on duty at SBI Square that night said.
Meanwhile, the entire bar association has thrown its weight behind the ADJ, who has now been transferred to Bilaspur to facilitate an impartial probe into his conduct, admitting that he was used to drinking and could have been drunk that Sunday. The advocates insist Patel is being lionised because his suicide has made many sympathetic towards him.
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“His nature is very good. He is barely audible and is unlikely to have raised his voice then,’’ said bar association president Santosh Mishra while reeling off incidents when the SP allegedly roughed up people in line of duty. The bar alleged that Patel had beaten up another advocate, who was also a block committee president, in Narayanpur last year leading to a similar demand for his suspension. He was not suspended but taken off duty.
“Suspensions are common in the life of a policeman. The punishment is used mainly as a tool to calm frayed tempers and to diffuse tension. You don’t take your life for it,’’ a senior police officer said. IG (Bastar) A D Gautam, from whom the police headquarters had sought report about the brawl, said inquiries are on at several levels.
Advocates have objected to the inquiry being ordered by the High Court registrar. “What kind of inquiry is it that calls only those who are likely to speak against the ADJ,’’ Mishra said. About the possibility of the ADJ being booked for abetment to suicide, the advocates say if anything, Patel’s seniors should be booked because his suicide note accuses them of not hearing him out.