Case against the Health Minister: A Confused Govt. under Conditional Stimulus

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The chief of the Schedule Caste Commission Sri P. L. Punia questioned the State Government’s prudence in keeping Dr. Damodar Raut in the Cabinet; but the Government could not say that it is the Chief Minister’s prerogative to have a Minister of his choice and nobody has any right to raise any question on his prerogative.

Sri Punia, who belongs to the Congress party that is more marked for boycotting the Government in the Assembly than extending constructive co-operation as the main Opposition; and which, if the present Chief Minister fails to get a fresh mandate, may get a climate to occupy power, asked the Government to ensure that Dr. Raut is ruthlessly prosecuted against; but the State could not say him that, that again is a matter, where outside orders are bound to be viewed as transgression into powers of the State.

Instead of protecting the invincibility of the State in its internal management, the Chief Secretary was eager to marshal before Punia how the State has already instructed the Advocate General to expedite vacation of the stay Dr. Raut has got from the Orissa High Court on the cognizance taken by a lower court in the matter of his assumed offense of pointing at caste status of a local MP, a MLA and an officer of his district Jagatsingpur in August 2010.

The matter being subjudice, the court that has taken cognizance of the case, is the only entitled authority to pronounce a verdict on Dr. Raut. But, Punia, in a press conference at Bhubaneswar on Friday, pronounced that Dr. Raut is a “criminal” and therefore, does not deserve to be in the cabinet. In reiterating his “verdict”, in response to a query in the conference, he posed, “What do you call a man against whom criminal cases are pending?”

Where from Punia got this carte blanche to declare a man against whom a criminal case is pending, a criminal? Has the law from which he derives his power given him the authority to declare a man “criminal” if any allegation against him is taken cognizance of in a criminal court? Has any of the High Courts or the Supreme court of India ever delivered a verdict making any man facing any prosecution for any alleged crime in any court anywhere in India to be branded as a “criminal” during pendency of prosecution? Where from Punia got this authority to brand Dr. Raut as a “criminal”?

And, how is it that the State Government has not yet questioned Punia’s sense of understanding the limits of his powers? It is because; the state Government is too confused to come to the protection of a minister who is subjected to such uncalled for derogatory remarks.

The vote-bank politics has made the government too pusillanimous to stay strong in confronting a shadow political player like Punia, who has, in the instant case, used the ramparts of the National Commission for Schedule Castes to brand a minister of Orissa as a “criminal”, despite none of his alleged crime established by law.

Punia is a Congress MP and is slated to join as a zonal head of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh. He has politically misused his position and has branded a minister of Orissa as a “criminal” with political motive. He should have been condemned by the State Government and the Central Government should have been asked to drop him from the National Commission for Schedule Castes for misuse of his position. But, being in conditional stimulus under the schedule caste magic in vote-bank politics, the State Government has no stamina to foil Punia’s ulterior motive in using the term “criminal” against its own minister, who is not a criminal under any verdict of any court of criminal jurisprudence.

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