State policemen back colleague, lawyers stir on

Cuttack/Rourkela: A joint body of Orissa policemen on Thursday demanded withdrawal of the suspension of inspector Sadanand Pujari for `assaulting` a magistrate last week, while ceasework by Rourkela lawyers demanding his arrest entered fourth day on Thursday.

A Police Coordination Committee comprising Orissa Police Association (OPA) and Orissa Constables, Havildars, and Sepoys Confederation threw its weight behind Pujari, inspector in-charge of Uditnagar police station.

"When there are complaints of cognizable offences against both the responsible government officials, why the government has chosen to act only against the policeman," OPA president Sawarmal Sharma asked in Cuttack and demanded withdrawal of the suspension order slapped on Pujari.

Rourkela police officers association yesterday threatened to go for ceasework if Pujari`s suspension was not withdrawn within three days.

Both Pujari and the Panposh first class judicial magistrate Arun Patnaik had lodged FIRs following the latter`s alleged assault in the police station.

In his FIR, Patnaik had said that on the night of April 2 when he was watching World Cup victory celebration in front of his house, he was forcefully taken to the Uditnagar police station, abused and physically assaulted. SP Diptesh Patnaik also advised him to compromise, he complained.

Pujari, on the other hand, alleged in his FIR that the magistrate was drunk and was causing public nuisance on that night and obstructed him from performing his duties.

Orissa government on April 4 announced a judicial inquiry into the alleged assault and suspended Pujari.

The lawyers in Rourkela, who were on a ceasework, today blocked the busy main road in front of the civil court demanding arrest of Pujari and action against the SP.

Rourkela Bar Association has given a 12-hour Rourkela bandh call tomorrow in support of their demand. The Congress, BJP and CPI(M) have appealed to the people to observe the bandh peacefully.

Work in offices like Road Transport, Civil Supplies and Tahsil were affected as the lawyers staged dharna in front of these offices preventing movement of officials.

The policemen questioned the rationale behind the lawyers` agitation saying it was an issue between a policemen and a judicial officer.

"We do not have any animosity with the lawyers over the issue and request them to refrain from their ongoing stir," said constable confederation chief Padmanav Behera.

A delegation of lawyers, under the directive of the High Court Bar Association arrived here today to study the matter and take stock of the situation.

Orissa government yesterday submitted a status report in the Orissa High Court on the alleged assault.