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Forced into attempting suicide, Odisha woman faces criminal charges

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Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Keonjhar, June 4:

In  a classic case of bureaucratic high handedness and gross contempt towards the poor and the ordinary, the administration in Odisha’s Keonjhar district has not only failed to deliver justice to a young orphaned woman who had come to petition the collector on her grievance, but has compounded its failure by slapping serious criminal charges against her.

Ssaraswati being treated at the hospital after attempting to slash her wrist
Ssaraswati being treated at the hospital after attempting to slash her wrist

Following complaint by the district administration against the young orphaned woman Saraswati Patra, who attempted to commit suicide in front of the collector’s office, the police have charged her under sections 353 (Assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty), 506 (Punishment for criminal intimidation) and 309 (Attempt to commit suicide) of the IPC.

Saraswati Patra and her sister Jambubati Patra are natives of Janghira village under Harichandanpur block. Both are unmarried and have lost their parents. While they had lost their father Daitari Patra 18 years back, their mother Basumati Patra died three years back.

Following their mother’s death, the duo has been allegedly harassed by their paternal uncles Prafulla Das and Pramod Das. They have not only deprived the two sisters of their rightful landed property, but were not even allowing them to stay in their parental house.

Despite several complaints lodged by the sisters at the Pandapada police station, the police has chosen not to do anything about it.

Last month, they had attended the collector’s grievance hearing camp and had lodged their complaint. Collector N Tirumala Nayak had ordered for an inquiry into the matter and had sent them to a correction home.

The two sisters attended the collector’s grievance hearing camp for the second time on Monday last. Their elder sister Lilavati had also accompanied them to the grievance hearing camp.

Saraswati has alleged that while she was handing over her petition to the collector at the camp, the latter accused them of ‘natakbaazi’ (histrionics) and had ordered their arrest.

Saraswati said she felt hurt by the collector’s actions/response and had left the camp in disgust. She purchased a knife and a bottle of poison from the nearby market and attempted to commit suicide by at the camp by slashing an artery in her hand. She was captured by the police present there and shifted to a hospital.

While Saraswati is currently undergoing treatment at the hospital, the police, apparently at the instance of the district administration, have registered a case against her at the Keonjhar Town police station charging her under sections 353, 506 and 309 of the IPC

Claiming it to be a sensitive issue, president of Keonjhar Pragatishila Nagrika Manch Dhirendra Rout has demanded a Crime Branch probe into the matter. “Registering a criminal case against a woman who had come to register her grievance at a hearing is most unfortunate,” said Rout.

Confirming that a case has been lodged against Saraswati under sections 353, 506 and 309 of IPC, Subhranshu Sekhar Mishra IIC Town PS said the next step in the matter will be only taken after investigations are over.

“I have repeatedly knocked on the doors of the administration for justice. Instead of justice, I was rebuked by the collector. Now they have conspired to send me to jail by registering cases against me. God is there they will never succeed in their motive,” said Saraswati.

“The complainant had first attempted to commit suicide in front of a district official, which is illegal. Complaint has been lodged secondly for obstructing a public servant in discharging his duty. The case has been registered in accordance with law. Now it depends on the police what it will do,” said collector N Tirumala Nayak in his reactions.