In a major development in the sensational death case of Paralakhemundi assistant conservator of forest (ACF) Soumya Ranjan Mohapatra, a watchman on Tuesday made a startling revelation that the District Collector of Gajapati was present during the fire mishap that led to death of the young forest officer.
The watchman, Santosh Biswal, who was deployed at the main gate of the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO)'s quarters, said the district Collector visited the DFO's quarters at around 8 pm on the fateful day.
Biswal, whose statement was recorded for about four hours today by a Crime Branch team, said the Collector was even present when ACF Soumya Ranjan was rescued with critical burn injuries and shifted to a hospital.
"Collector sir had come to the quarters of DFO. I was on night duty and saw him (Collector) arriving at around 8 pm," Biswal told the media. He said the same sequence he has narrated before the Crime Branch during the recording of his statement.
After the shocking revelation by the watchman, Crime Branch DSP Gyana Ranjan Mishra said, if needed, the Collector will be brought under the purview of investigation.
"The entire investigation now focuses around the incident which happened on the fateful night. We are questioning all those persons associated with the case about the circumstances on that night," Mishra said.
Asked whether the District Collector will be grilled, Mishra said, "As per the requirement of the investigation, decision will be taken in this regard."
This is not the first time big names have cropped up in the investigation into the sensational death case of the young forest officer. Earlier, the family members of the deceased had alleged pressure from the State Forest minister's office in the case. Days later, the personal secretary of the Forest minister was shunted out abruptly in a dramatic fashion.
Today, the Crime Branch (CB) team also questioned a gardener, Ajay Behera. Both the watchman and the gardener faced marathon questioning at the forest department guest house. Later, the CB team proceeded to the office of the Gajapati Chief District Medical Officer (CDMO) where the ambulance driver and his associate who had taken critically injured Soumya Ranjan to hospital on the day of the incident were questioned.
Yesterday, two ACFs who were colleagues of Soumya Ranjan were subjected to questioning by the probe agency.
It is reminded here that Soumya Ranjan had sustained burn injuries at his quarters on July 11. He succumbed while being treated at a private hospital in Cuttack a day later.