Retired Judge of Orissa High Court, Justice Ratnakar Dash has raised serious questions over the legal sections under which Bidya Bharti Panda has been booked in the unnatural death case of her husband and former Paralakhemundi Assistant Conservator of Forest (ACF) Soumya Ranjan Mohapatra, as has been revealed in the 300-page Crime Branch chargesheet filed on Friday.
Bidya Bharati has been accused by the police of making unsubstantial efforts and being negligent in saving the life of her husband when she found him engulfed in a fire on the night of July 11.
Speaking to OTV, Justice Dash said, the legal Sections under which Bidya has been booked are ‘inappropriate’ for the case, which smacks of an attempt to “change the direction.”
"The chargesheet has been filed by the investigating agency in a hurry to avoid the uncomfortable questions which the court could have raised as a writ petition has already been filed in connection with the case. The court would have asked the investigating agency the status report on the investigation. Moreover, the Court could also have demanded supportive documents to adduce the police claims. Under such circumstances, the Crime Branch filed a 300-page charge sheet and booked her (Bidya) under IPC Sections 285 and 304-A," said Justice Dash, adding, “These sections are not appropriate for this case. After verifying the documents, the Court will release the accused and the investigating agency will find an alibi to shift blame. And also people will forget everything in due course of time," he added.
It is worth mentioning here that subsequent to giving clean chits to the key suspects in the death case, DFO Sangram Keshari Behera and Manmath Kumbha- the cook attached to the deceased officer’s quarters- the Crime Branch had filed a 300-page charge sheet against Bidya Bharati in the SDJM Court in Paralakhemundi on Friday.
Bidya has been booked under IPC Sections 285 and 304-A.
As per Section 304-A: if a death is caused due to his/her negligence or unawareness, the accused will be convicted for a maximum of two years of imprisonment. On the other hand, Section 285 is applied for negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter. A person convicted under this Section will be awarded a maximum of one year imprisonment and also be slapped a penalty. In case of failing to deposit the levied penalty, the convict's stay at the jail will be extended for a few months more.
The Crime Branch charged Bidya under these Sections as the investigators found she did not try enough to extinguish the flames and save her husband while he was caught in a fire, ADG, Sanjeev Panda had stated.
Meanwhile, Paralakhemundi MLA K Narayan Rao has also raised questions over the chargesheet.
He questioned how the investigating agency booked her (Bidya) under such ‘normal charges’ in a sensational death case.
Rao said, "It seems the government is trying to save someone in the case for which she has been booked under such normal charges."
Furthermore, he alleged that he has lost faith in the State Crime Branch. “The case should be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI),” he demanded.
However, the ruling government is yet to respond to the allegations.