Odisha Sun Times Bureau
New Delhi/Bhubaneswar, March 5:
Chief secretary JK Mohapatra is known for his integrity and as an apolitical, no-nonsense officer. But with his less than proper role in the attempt to bail out the state government and make a ‘sacrificial goat’ out of a deputy superintendent of police (DSP), who allegedly threatened the petitioner in the PIL on the multi-thousand crore chit fund scam in Odisha, being heard by the Supreme Court, that image is now under serious threat of being besmirched.
“The chief secretary is in a soup after ‘lying’ – to the Supreme Court, no less – on the nature of the visit of the officer in the dock, DSP Pramod Kumar Panda of CID-CB, to New Delhi,” a senior official of the state Home department told OST.
While Mohapatra sought to pass off Panda’s visit to New Delhi, during which he is alleged to have threatened the petitioner Alok Jena of ‘dire consequences’ if he did not withdraw the PIL, as an ‘unauthorized’ (and therefore ‘private’) visit, documents in possession of OST prove otherwise.
In an ‘official’ letter to the Advocate on Record (AoR) of the Supreme Court S Mishra (DO No Home-SPS Case 4-01/14 5241/CS (Home), Bhubaneswar dated February 5, 2014), Mohapatra claimed that ‘the visit undertaken by the said officer has not been sanctioned by the Hon’ble Chief Minister, State of Odisha’.
But a Home department requisition (HOME-PROT-RA-0005/2014- 2262/RES dated Bhubaneswar the 17 th of January, 2014) for accommodation in Odisha Niwas/Bhavan in the national capital leaves no room for doubt that Panda and a fellow officer DSP Saroj Kumar Rath, Economic Offences Wing (EOW), CID-CB, were indeed on an ‘official’ visit during the period in question.
The requisition shows that Suite No 1303 in Odisha Niwas was booked in the name of Panda and Rath (one bed each) at the rate of Rs 40 a day – a rate applicable only when a state government employee is on official tour to Delhi- from January 19 to January 22.
It may be noted that Panda is alleged to have made suspicious inquiries at the Dwarka apartment-where Jena stays- on January 19 and threatened to ‘eliminate’ him if he did not withdraw his PIL in the apex court in full view of many lawyers and several media persons on January 22.
Panda has now been placed under suspension and an inquiry launched against him after the hullabaloo over the alleged intimidation of the petitioner in the case.
But Mohapatra found himself on a sticky wicket even on this issue.
During the brief hearing of the case in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, Suresh Tripathy, the counsel for Alok Jena pointed out another gross anomaly which he said nailed the chief secretary’s efforts to ‘hush up’ the case.
“The inquiry against the DSP was started by the Home secretary on February 7. In that case, how could the chief secretary write two days earlier i.e. on February 5 that an inquiry had already been initiated?” Tripathy wondered.
Interestingly, although the state Home Secretary had ordered Panda to present himself before him on February 7 for an inquiry ” on allegations against him in a Supreme Court related matter”, the officer was placed under suspension on February 5 (vide letter no Home-SPS-Case-4-0001-2014/5238 /5.2.2014), two days ahead of the inquiry process.
With the apex court postponing the hearing in the case to March 26, the Odisha government – and the chief secretary, by extension – may have got a breather. But Jena’s counsel Suresh Tripathy on Tuesday has already raised this issue before the Supreme Court bench hearing the PIL on the chit fund scam. More questions about his role in the whole messy affair are bound to come up when the court takes up the hearing next.
As it appears, the chief secretary had nothing to do with DSP Panda’s Delhi trip or his acts of omission and commission out there, but what emerges out of all this is, he was trying to protect someone either in the state police or Home department or someone ‘very powerful’.
The question is : who and what prompted him to go against his grains and make an official statement to convert an official trip of a officer deputed to Delhi as an ‘unauthorised’ one ?
A retired bureaucrat expressing his disappointment over the chief secretary’s ‘statement’ to the apex court said, ” He is all set to join the long list of ministers, MLAs and other influential leaders of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) whose reputations have taken a severe beating after details of their role in facilitating the chit fund scam emerged.”