Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
Narayan Patra, known crusader against illegalities resorted to in forums of Law, has succeeded in shifting his case in the matter of murder of his daughter from a bench that he had suspected to be prejudiced against him, to a new bench specially constituted to hear his case by the High Court of Orissa.
Patra’s daughter Kalyani, married to Atmaram Sahu of Talcher in 1994, was found dead on 14 July 1995 in her father-in-law’s house. Thousands of the people of the locality had obstructed her cremation by the Sahu family as they were rushing towards the cremation ground without informing her father of her death. Clearly they were suspicious of the crime. They forced Kalyani’s father-in-law Chittaranjan Sahu to bring Patra to see his daughter before her cremation and to inform the police also of her sudden death.
Patra, on call under a different pretext, reached Talcher in the afternoon to see his daughter’s body lying on the outer yard of Chittaranjan, who told him that Kalyani had been to the bath room in early morning and as she did not come out for a long time, he forced open the toilet door and found her dead lying on the floor on her back with her face towards the roof. He said, she perhaps had slipped and succumbed instantly to head injury. Chittaranjan had informed of this even to the police in writing, which was treated as FIR under the IPC that gave birth to the original criminal case as post-mortem investigations revealed that she had succumbed to strangulation.
As the sahu family went underground, a murder case instituted against them, the then Chief Minister J.B.Patnaik had to inform Orissa Legislative Assembly that the Sahu family being wealthy and well connected, it was difficult to locate at whose house they were hiding. However, he had assured the House that the absconders should soon be apprehended.
Attempts were made from the underground to obtain anticipatory bail orders. Even government pleaders were gained over to convince the trial court that the death was not homicidal, but suicidal. Attempts were even made to mislead the High Court and occasions so arrived when Patra found no other way than openly raising allegations against certain judges’ on ground of corruption in granting bail to Kalyani’s in-laws that were hit by sessions trial. Vigilant Patra, always alertly watching the development, foiled those attempts at the cost of contempt proceedings.
In the meantime, Chittaranjan died. Many suspect that his family killed him to put him away from examination in the court as otherwise, his FIR to the extent that Kalyani was found lying on the bathroom floor obviously succumbing to accidental slipping, could have spoiled their plea that her death was suicidal and she had hanged herself that left the scar on her neck.
However, the trial court ultimately held that her death was homicidal, not suicidal. But while punishing Kalyani’s husband with life imprisonment, it awarded a minor punishment on her mother-in-law.
Patra had preferred a criminal revision in the High Court against the leniency shown to the culprits by the sessions court; but to his shock, he also smelt a rat there, for which he had been insisting upon special hearing of his case.
The present Chief Justice V.Gopal Gowda has constituted a special bench comprising Justice I.Mohanty and H.S.Bhalla to hear Patra’s criminal revision. The new bench has started the hearing on 15 february, Patra, not a professional lawyer, has been conducting his case, considered a classic instance of a father’s love and responsibility for his murdered daughter.