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Mrunal Manmay Dash

Facts emerging out of the investigation into the murder of cameraman Manas Swain has cemented the earlier suspicion about a ‘close relationship’ between wanted accused Sarmistha Rout and key accused Niranjan Shethi, the retired Odisha Information Service (OIS) officer who was arrested in the case on Monday.

police sources said that Sethi empanelled a fortnightly newspaper run by Sharmistha, ‘Sampurna’, to receive government advertisements just one day before he retired as the Technical Director of the Information and Public Relations (I&PR) Department of Government of Odisha on February 28, 2022.

Sethi wrote in his order, “Government, after careful consideration, have been pleased to empanel "SAMPURNA" an Odia fortnightly Newspaper published from Bhubaneswar in the approved list for issue of Government advertisements. The advertisement rate is fixed at Rs 17.76 (Rs Seventeen & Seventy Six Paisa) only per Square Cm with circulation figure of 15200 (DAVP) copies per issue and subject to change from time to time as notified by I&PR Department,” (SIC)

Sethi further requested all (then) departments to adhere to Rules-6,7 & 8 of the advertisement policy of the State government for issue of government advertisement without any deviation.

Sources said the undue favour shown to Sarmistha’s newspaper speaks volumes about the closeness the duo shared which was beyond the official protocol followed by Sethi.

Police have so far arrested five persons in connection with the brutal murder of the 28-year-old cameraman. However, Sarmistha, who also owns a web channel where Manas worked, is still absconding.

Sarmishta is suspected to have played a key role in the murder, though her exact involvement is yet to be ascertained. Apart from Sarmishta, one of her associates is also believed to be involved in the crime. Multiple police teams are presently working on the case and efforts are on to nab them.

Jatin Panda, Additional SP Bhadrak, told reporters, “Sethi was involved in the murder conspiracy and was also present at Dayal Ashram in Bhubaneswar where Manas was brutally tortured and assaulted. We have ample evidence against the accused.”

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