Odia IFS officer held in US for alleged sexual assault

Bhubaneswar:  A senior Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer Surendra Prasad Mohapatra, who is in the US on a training course, has been taken into police custody at Pennsylvania, according to information received by the Odisha government here today.

The state government, however, said it was exactly not aware of the charges against Mohapatra amid reports that the Odisha-cadre officer had been accused of `wrongfully confining` a woman staff at a hotel where he was put up. Mohapatra is the Regional Chief Conservator of Forests at Sambalpur.

The government said it was in touch with the Centre and the Indian Embassy in the US but could not establish contact with Mohapatra. "This is an unfortunate incident. We have received information regarding police taking Surendra Prasad Mohapatra, an IFS officer of Odisha cadre, into custody. The state government has been in touch with the Ministry of Environment and Forest and Indian Embassy," Forest and Environment Minister Debi Prasad Mishra told reporters here.

Stating that Mohapatra was in the US on a mid-career training tour, the minister said the state government was not exactly aware of the charges against the IFS officer. There was also no information on when the arrest took place.

However, media reports said Mohapatra was taken into custody after he was accused of `wrongfully confining` a woman staff at the hotel where he was staying along with 30 other IFS officers, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF) P N Padhi said. "We are unable to directly speak to Mohapatra because of restrictions put by Pennsylvania police," Padhi said in reply to a question.

Quoting one Bhargava, the Indian course coordinator for the US trip, Padhi said, "Mr Mahapatra had a problem with his internet connection and asked the reception for help. A woman came to his room but was unable to fix it and so left." However, about two hours later, the police turned up and arrested him after the woman reportedly filed a complaint, Padhi added.