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Sharmili Mallick

Nayagarh: The case pertaining to the alleged abduction, rape and murder of a five-year-old girl from Nayagarh took a curious turn on Friday when a RTI disclosure raised some serious questions over the State government's claims that it has sought the appointment of a sitting High Court judge to monitor the SIT probe.

The disclosure was made by the Public Relations Officer of the Orissa High Court in response to a RTI query filed by social activist Hemant Panda.

In his RTI query, Panda had sought information about the State government's request to accord permission to appoint a sitting judge of the High Court to monitor the probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the sensational murder.

Last year on the 28th of November, the State government had formed a five-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) led by Arun Bothra. Moreover, the government claims to have requested the Chief Justice of Orissa HC to accord permission to monitor the investigation of SIT by a Sitting Judge of the HC. A letter was reportedly sent to Registrar General of the HC regarding the constitution of the SIT to investigate the case.

As per the HC reply dated January 6, 2021, "No letter of request has been received from the State Government as on date regarding the appointment of an honourable sitting judge of this court to monitor the SIT probe on the murder of a minor girl namely 'Pari' of Nayagarh district."

In another query, Panda asked whether any action on the request to appoint a sitting judge had been taken, to which the HC replied," Since no such letter is received, question of action taken does not arise."

"If actually the State government wanted a Court-monitored investigation, and now when reports suggest that the government hadn't sent the letter to HC, apprehensions are bound to be raised why it was done so. The government should have come with a clean picture," said Manas Chand, a lawyer.

After the RTI report came to the fore, the Opposition BJP and Congress have joined hands to corner the ruling-BJD.

If true, such an effort by the government is unfortunate, stated OPCC chief Niranjan Patnaik, adding that the party will raise this issue in the next Assembly session.

"Odisha government in Assembly had announced court-monitored SIT probe into Nayagarh minor girl murder case, but it has now been proved false. The BJD is misleading the people of the State," said BJP state general secretary Golak Mohapatra.

"The government did not feel ashamed to lie inside and outside the Assembly, before media persons, before the public, and even made the DGP speak untruth. We demand breach of privilege notice against the State government," said BJP's Lekhashree Samantsinghar.

In response, BJD spokesperson Lenin Mohanty said, "High Court has issued orders with regard to the probe. This gives a clear indication that BJP doesn't have any facts. The party is doing cheap politics, and nothing else for its survival."

READ | Nayagarh Minor Girl Murder: SIT Has 2 Months Time To Submit Comprehensive Report Before Orissa HC

Earlier on January 12, while hearing a PIL over the matter, the Orissa HC had directed the SIT, headed by senior IPS officer Arun Bothra, to submit a detailed status report with regard to the investigation into the case and reviewed the preliminary status report of the findings. The court was satisfied with the progress of the investigation and asked the SIT to submit a comprehensive report in the case.

However, after SIT sought more time for filing the report, the HC granted two months time and fixed the next date of hearing on March 25.

It may be noted that the minor girl went missing on July 14 last year and her skeletal remains were found in the backyard of her house on July 23, 2020. Later, DNA tests on the bones as well as that of her parents proved that it was of the five-year-old.

The issue took centre stage four months later when the girl’s parents made an attempt to end their lives in front of the Odisha Assembly on November 24 alleging shoddy probe into the case and the police's failure in bringing the real perpetrators to book on account of their high political connections.

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