Odisha Sun Times Bureau
New Delhi, Mar 12:
The Supreme Court today disposed of the PIL demanding a CBI probe into the case of murder of Odisha lady teacher Itishree Pradhan saying such a probe was not necessary.
The court noted that there was no evidence on record to suggest the involvement of powerful people in the case or any effort by them to pressurise the victim to withdraw her charges, factors that could have influenced the court to order a CBI probe despite the filing of the chargesheet by the state investigating agency.
The apex court, however, ordered action against negligent officials who did not pay heed to Itishree’s plea.
The court had a word of praise for the petitioner and Bengaluru-based Odia law student Ms Sudipta Lenka for bringing the matter to their attention.
The three-member bench headed by the Chief Justice P.Sathasivam had reserved its verdict in the matter after completion of the hearing on 5 March.
Odisha government’s counsel, senior lawyer Nageswar Rao had opposed the transfer of the investigation of the case to CBI on the ground that the state Crime Branch had done a through probe and submitted a charge sheet against the prime accused.
Rao, however, admitted that Itishree had indeed sent her petition to the chief minister but no action had been taken on it. He also indicated that the state government is considering taking disciplinary action against the collector and the SP of Rayagada district for their failure to act in time.
Senior lawyer Suresh Tripathy, counsel for the petitioner Ms Sudipta Lenka, however, had rubbished the Crime Branch report and prayed that the case be handed over to an independent agency like the CBI because powerful people including the local MP were involved in the case.
The learned bench in its verdict has said since there is no evidence on record to suggest that the Koraput MP Jayaram Pangi had tried to protect the culprit Netrananda Dandsena or pressurise Itishree into withdrawing the case against Dandasena, the question of shielding any powerful individual has not been establsihed
The bench noted that while Dandasena had been arrested, several officials have been penalised for negligence in the matter and Rs 10 lakh ex gratia had been paid to the victim’s family.
The verdict says, “Insofar as the facts and circumstances following the death of Itishree Pradhan is concerned, in view of the chargesheet filed and the departmental action taken against the erring officials, we do not feel the necessity of any further direction in the matter, at this stage.”
“We are, therefore, inclined to take the view that the power of this Court to refer a matter to Central Bureau of Investigation for further investigation, after filing of the chargesheet by the State investigating agency, ought not to be invoked in the present case. Instead, the course of action that would be now mandated by law against the accused Netrananda Dandasena should be allowed to reach its logical conclusion at the earliest.
“At the same time the investigation that has been kept open against the unidentified accused should be completed without delay. We direct accordingly and cast the responsibility in this regard on the Superintendent of Police, Rayagada.”
The verdict further says, ” while noticing that disciplinary action has been taken against certain officials of the State, we are of the view that the State should hold a detailed administrative inquiry into the matter to ascertain whether any other official or authority, at any level, is responsible for not attending to the complaints, grievances and demands raised by the deceased either in the matter of action against accused Netrananda Dandasena or in providing security to her or in transferring her from Tikiri, Rayagada District. On the basis of the findings and conclusions as may be reached in such inquiry, we direct the State to take necessary action in the matter.
“We also make it clear that we have not expressed any opinion with regard to the liability or culpability of any official or functionary of the State in this regard.
“We accordingly dispose of the writ petition and place on record our appreciation for the services rendered by the young law student in seeking to vindicate the fundamental rights of the deceased and for the painstaking efforts expended by her to uphold the Rule of Law”.