Uliburu mining scam: a legal quagmire

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

We are in a quagmire. Mafia has taken over Orissa. Loot of mines knows no limit and goes on non-stop as the governments both under Naveen Patnaik in the State and Manmohan Singh in the Center have created the most congenial climate for this crime against the land.

One such loot is estimated to be of Rs.1800 crore worth, committed in Uliburu iron ore mines in Keonjhar District. Co-accused Deepak Gupta, Haricharan Gupta, Kantidevi Gupta, and Nitu Gupta have been protected from arrest by interim orders of Orissa High Court, that continues to extend the protection.

The Special Vigilance Court, Keonjhar has been stymied from proceeding in the case against the Guptas as they are not making themselves available for trial. The vigilance police could have arrested them and produced before the court; but it is unable to act, because of the interim protection given to the co-accused Guptas. When thousands of individuals are perishing in jails because of denial of bail lest they tamper with documents or gain over investigating officers or witness if not arrested and kept in custody, why the Guptas are being kept free, is a conundrum.

When a single judge protects co-beneficiaries of such a scam worth 1800 crores of rupees by granting them interim protection and such protection gets extended from time to time, looking at the affairs askance may not be entirely unnatural. In such circumstances, is it not proper for the Chief Justice of the High Court to constitute a bench with several judges to find out if such interim protection is essential in cause of justice and if these Guptas are so reliable for the High Court to enjoy its protection from arrest, why have innumerable people of Orissa are perishing in jails by rejection of their bail petitions by the judiciary? Are they unreliable? Really?

No judicial forum should make a mockery of justice by holding co-accused scamsters reliable than ordinary citizens. The interim protection given time and again to the co-accused Guptas could not have been possible had the concerned judge not been of the opinion that they are too reliable to be arrested. It conversely raises the question: Is the Vigilance police/ prosecutor in this case, not reliable in eyes of the judge? Has the judge conducted any reliability test?

A division bench comprising several judges should find the answer so that people’s faith in judiciary does not crack and they may be saved from the current legal quagmire.

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