His crime against democracy taken into judicial cognizance, and being no more able to fend himself in the corridors of power, Labor Minister Pradipta Kumar Naik resigned from Naveen Patnaik’s Council of Ministers today, to become the third Minister to have been shown the door within a month. The other two were Rabi Narayan Nanda and Kalandi Behera, the former found tainted in hooch trade by a judicial commission and the later put on the slate for investigation by a fresh judicial commission.

At the behest of the Election Commission, the Returning Officer of Bhawanipatna, his Constituency, has filed a case in the Court of the Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate there against Naik alleging that he had suppressed vital facts relating to his criminal antecedents in the Affidavit that he had submitted to him in order to qualify to contest the Assembly election. Naik is now subjected to the trial for this crime against democracy that may draft him for rigorous imprisonment for three years, if prosecution conducts the case efficiently.

Since yesterday, April 28, 2006, after the cognizance taken by the SDJM at Bhawanipatna caused reverberations in the power circle at Bhubaneswar, he had been maintaining that he had not willfully suppressed facts about criminal cases pending against him in the Affidavit that he submitted as part of his nomination papers. He had not received any summon or warrant from any court of law in matter of any case lodged against him and therefore he had no knowledge of pendency of these cases, he was saying.

Even the President of the State unit of Bharatiya Janata Party to which Naik belongs, Mr. Juel Oram, was refusing to find any credibility in the complaint case filed by the Returning Officer. No body can be prosecuted for not including anything that he does not know in an Affidavit, Oram was asserting.

Both Naik’s as well as Oram’s statements had no credibility. It can never be accepted that Naik had no knowledge of the pending cases. He is a lawyer by profession as per bio-data he has given to the Assembly. He has been representing Bhawanipatna Assembly Constituency since 1995 as a candidate of BJP, the party that pokes nose into everything that matters in politics. There are four cases pending against him since 1995. All these cases were lodged against him by the Police. We have earlier reported the case numbers. Responding to queries from the Press, after his resignation, he has admitted that allegations on which those cases are based are true but sans mens rea. The motive behind his alleged actions was not criminal, but political, he has clarified. Whether his action was political or criminal is not relevant at this stage. What is relevant is that it is not a fact that he had no knowledge of the pending cases.

It is note worthy that all the four cases are GR cases filed under Indian Penal Code before his party became a partner in Government. Mark the cases again. The first case bearing No.239 was lodged in 1995. The 2nd case bearing No.521 was lodged in 1996. The third case bearing No.231 was lodged in 1997 and the 4th one bearing No.407 was registered in 1998. So this is a chain of habitual offence. But there is no new police case against him ever since Naveen Patnaik joined the Union Government under Vajpayee in 1998-99 with a new wave in Orissa politics that eventually ushered the BJP into power in coalition with Naveen’s BJD.

Whether or not the Police are being compelled to ignore the criminal offences committed by ruling alliance members is a separate issue to study. But conspicuous absence of new cases against a person marked for habitual offences, ever since his party has usurped power, makes it abundantly clear that he certainly knows that in the earlier regime he was disadvantaged by Police cases.

This perhaps concussed the good sense of BJP bosses. Lest it leads to worse embarrassments, they decided to advise Naik to resign.

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