Orissa High Court heavily censures SoPS for acts of personal aggrandizement

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Selfless Journalists under the banner of “Save the Samaja Forum” and employees of ‘The Samaja’ on the platform of their trade union “Utkalmani Newspaper Employees Association” have been continuously alleging that a pack of self-seeking criminals, who use Lala Lajpat Rai’s Servants of the People Society as their identity, have seized the Oriya daily “The Samaja” by forging a Will of its founder Utkalmani Gopabandhu Das and looting its funds and misusing its media power for their personal aggrandizement, while keeping the State Government run by Naveen Patnaik as well as media organizations run mostly by economic offenders in Orissa muzzled, as evidenced in their total silence when it is known to them that the newspaper based on contribution of the people of the State is being looted and the morality Gopabandhu stood for is being butchered.

Orissa High Court in a judgment passed on January 22, has severely censured the said society’s office bearers – erstwhile and existing – for their acts of “personal aggrandizement”.

“Before parting with the case”, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Mr. A. K. Goel and Justice A. K. Rath, while rejecting the writ appeal of Niranjan Rath and others that have occupied ‘The Samaja’ and SoPS office, has said, “we would like to observe that the SoPS was founded by a great freedom fighter and prominent leader of the country, namely, Lala Lajpat Rai in the year 1921. The society is devoted to enlist and train national missionaries for the service of the motherland. it publishes a premium Oriya Daily “The samaja”. But of late the office bearers of SoPS, both erstwhile and existing, have dragged the institution/”The Samaja” to portals of the court to satisfy their personal aggrandizement. The founding members of “The Samaja” in their wisdom had never thought that a day will come, when the office bearers will approach the Court for settlement of their disputes. Let good sense prevail amongst members of the executive council/office bearers to devote time for the society instead of settling their scores in the court”. (Para 18, Judgment in W. A.No 532 of 2013).

Niranjan and his team, like habitual litigants, had wanted quashing of order of a single Judge of the High Court that had approved the decision of the District Judge of Cuttack, who, in an order, had denied them free hand to use the Samaja funds.

The District Judge had held that, even though he was not to pass any finding in the matter of the suit pending in the trial Court relating to election of office bearers SoPS challenged by its life member Sri K. C. Tripathy, to him, Sri Tripathy had “a full proof case”.

Therefore, instead of quashing the election and leaving the issue to the trial Court, the District Judge had ordered that till finalization of the suit, the group that has occupied SoPS/The Samaja, “shall not take any policy decision having financial implications except meeting the day to day expenses” on publication of the paper including wages of the employees.

Niranjan and his team had come to the High Court for nullification of the restriction imposed on expenditure and had failed, as the Single Judge found the DJ order perfectly flawless. Now the writ appeal against the single Judge’s verdict has failed in the Division Bench headed by the Chief Justice.

The appeal of the occupiers of the Samaja has not only failed, but also the litigants have earned the stricture.

The Court has tightened the leash put on Niranjan and his team by mandating that they “shall not take any policy decision/final decision without leave of the trial Court”.

And, they are judicially advised not to indulge in “personal aggrandizement” at the cost of ‘The Samaja’.

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