Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

The Home Department run by Chief Minister Navin Patnaik has established that there is no dearth of crooks and crabs in his cabinet.

When we were looking at the loot in Orissa Health System Development Project (OHSDP) as the latest indicator to this, criminal intervention of Urban Development Minister K.V.Singhdeo in Police work to force-free an accused from Police custody at Bolangir has added a new proof.

Singhdeo’s front man Basant Meher was arrested by Police under Sections 420, 467, 468 and 471 of Indian Penal Code for offences such as cheating, forgery, use of forged documents, possessing of counterfeit marked materials etc. Under the first of these four sections, punishment awardable is imprisonment of 7 years with fine; under the second and third, imprisonment of 3 years with fine; and under the last section, i.e.471, the IPC has provided for imprisonment for life or imprisonment for seven years with fine.

Charges being such grave, these offences are non-bailable and therefore the Police have no right to enlarge the accused, once arrested, on bail. Only a Magistrate of First Class can consider an application for bail, adjudicate and pass an order on that; but never the Police.

Meher has allegedly misappropriated the money meant for Watershed Mission Project in a vast area of Bolangir. On investigation into specific complaints from the villagers of Sialbandha, Patnagarh Police had arrested him under the above charges. But Singhdeo, appearing in the Police Station in the capacity of a member of Council of Ministers, with a pack of his associate hoodlums, forced the Inquiry Officer (IO), Sub-Inspector of Police S.Barik to stop framing charges against Meher and to set him free. The superior boss of Barik, Circle Inspector (CI) Dinabandhu Sethi, collaborated with the Minister and forced the IO to release Meher.

This serious breach of Law having whipped up severe public protests, the Superintendent of Police had to conduct a personal enquiry and as he ascertained the offence, he has put the IO under suspension on February 10 and has indicated that a disciplinary proceeding against the Circle Inspector of Police is also on the anvil.

Any layman may imagine that the Minister is the mastermind behind the misappropriation of welfare funds in Bolangir and Meher is at best one of his tentacles.

Bolangir is burning.

People, no more willing to tolerate the Minister’s mischief, have expressed their collective wrath on February 11 by stilling all civil activities in the district headquarters town.

Disciplinary action against the IO and CI has made it clear that the authorities are prima-facie aware of the offence committed. They should have initiated penal proceedings against K.V.Singhdeo by this time. But, because he is a Minister and because the Chief Minister, who holds the Home portfolio, has not expressed his disapproval of the Minister’s unlawful act, they have not dared to draw up charges against Singhdeo.

Afraid of further exposure Chief Minister Navin Patnaik has dropped ministers like rotten onions time and again.

So, people will keep a watch on him to see if he repeats his tactics or abets with Singhdeo in the shysterdom.

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