Op-Ed: No one killed Bebina!

Poor Pradeep Maharathy! In a travesty of the criminal jurisprudence system, the ‘former’ Agriculture minister of Odisha has just earned the dubious distinction as the only member of the Odisha cabinet to be punished twice for the same ‘crime’. Having to resign twice – once on January 19, 2012 and then again on Sunday – must have been particularly painful for the ebullient Pipli MLA because he had to announce it after a court of law found no one guilty in the Pipli gang rape and murder case of 2011. His ‘crime’ this time was that he hailed the verdict of the court as a victory of ‘justice’. What else was he expected to do as a minister solemnly sworn to the Rule of Law? Forget the fact that he was a minister. Is it not the most proper and natural thing to do for any law abiding citizen?

Whatever his other faults, no one can accuse Maharathy of being inconsistent. He betrayed not the slightest hint of emotion as he proclaimed “Bebina has got justice” soon after the exoneration of the Pradhan brothers, the two prime accused in the case known as his supporters, on December 24. Nor was there the slightest trace of remorse when he expressed ‘regret’ for his statement three days later. And true to form, the Pilpi strongman, while speaking to the media soon after resigning on Sunday, made it abundantly clear that it was not pangs of conscience but the desire to save his party any ‘pressure’ that had made him put in his papers. Emotion, sentiment and sensitivity, after all, are not virtues in politics, are they?

And poor Naveen Patnaik! Even after securing the resignation of Maharathy – the sole demand of the protesters who first barged into the minister’s residence and then headed towards Naveen Nivas – the unreasonable Opposition is refusing to relent. Its appetite whetted by the resignation of the Pipli MLA, it has now started demanding the resignation of the Home minister, no less. What audacity! Have they gone crazy? In a country where ministers directly implicated in criminal cases cling on the chair till they are booted out or held guilty by a court, do they seriously expect a Home minister to resign for a case in which the court found no one guilty? In this case, the Home minister also doubles up as the Chief Minister of the state. Do they even know what they are talking about? After all, he sacrificed his ‘gelha pua’ (dear son) in the interest of propriety. What more could he have done? While the Opposition may have a point on the delay in the ouster of Maharathy, has he not done the same in every case so far – kept postponing the inevitable till it got to the point where the arrows started aiming at him? So what’s new?

And poor Crime Branch! It is being pilloried for a crime that it did not commit. What could it have done when the crime scene had already been wiped clean, evidence destroyed and witnesses tutored by the local police before it entered the scene? Is it not a travesty of justice that the man responsible for destruction of evidence – the then IIC Champattiray – has got scot free while the Crime Branch, is being hauled over the coals for something that it had no role in? Those who are demanding the handing over of the probe to the CBI obviously don’t have the faintest idea about scientific collection of forensic evidence. They are forgetting that the CBI fared no better when it was entrusted a similar case – that of Itishree at Tikiri in Rayagada district – for the same reason and ultimately had no option but to close the case. The Crime Branch is being castigated even for its decision to challenge the verdict of the lower court acquitting the two accused in the High Court. Would these people have been happier if the Crime Branch had not gone in appeal? Is it not a classic case of ‘Damned if you do, damned if you don’t’?

And lastly, poor parents of the victims! As if the verdict wasn’t bad enough, they also had to put up with the taunt of the minister and are now expected to be grateful for his ouster from the cabinet! As long as he was minister, the compulsions of office placed certain restrictions on him. Now that he is free of these restrictions, the man, who already has several criminal cases pending against him, is completely free to do as he pleases. With his supporters, the two accused, already roaming free, this can hardly be a welcome prospect for the hapless parents, who are already facing threats. They are not even allowed to mourn in peace as politicians and media persons are making a beeline for their home – like vultures descending on a carcass. Soon, the Crime Branch people would come in search of non-existent evidence and make life even more miserable for them than it already is.

They now have to live with the ‘reality’ that no one killed their daughter – and hence no one would ever be brought to book – for the rest if their lives. The ultimate tragedy is they can’t even say “Rest in Peace” to their dear daughter’s soul!

(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same)