Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, Aug 1:
Barely two days ahead of the next Supreme Court hearing in the case, the Odisha government on Friday dusted off the long forgotten Rajesh Verma report on administrative lapses leading to the murder of the Tikri lady teacher Itishree Pradhan in October, 2013 and initiated action against four of the 13 officials named in the report for dereliction of duty.
The state government has stopped the increments of two of the officers – Rayagada SDPO Y Jagannatn Rao for six months and two increments of then DPC and present ADM Laxminkanta Behera – besides recommending disciplinary action against the SP of the time Rajesh Pandit, who is now the Angul SP, and blacklisting SI of Tikri police station Durgeswari Devi.
At the next hearing in the case, the state government has to file an affidavit listing the action it has taken in the case based on its own inquiry into the lapses on the part of officials, which culminated in Itishree being set afire on October 27, 2013.
The state government had constituted the Rajesh Verma committee as per the directive of the Supreme Court in May, 2014.
Though it has been a year since the committee gave its report fixing responsibility for the lapses, the state government was sitting pretty doing nothing about the report.
That the government is acting only reluctantly is clear from the fact that except for the Tikri SI, the ‘action’ against the other three amounts to precious little. Stopping the increment for a few months is hardly the kind of ‘punishment’ that a case of this gravity warrants.
Besides, the government has, for reasons that can only be explained by it, has spared some of the others named in the report, whose role was even more questionable than that of the ones picked up for action. The then collector Sashi Bhushan Padhi and then Tikri IIC Sujit Kumar Ray are two cases in point.
It would, of course, be asking for the moon to expect action against the Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who was named by Itishree as one of the persons responsible for her death in her dying declaration.
May be that is the reason the government has found itself constrained in taking any harsh action against the officers found guilty in its own inquiry.
It remains to be seen, however, if the apex court accepts this as adequate action when the matter comes up for hearing on Monday.