In a dramatic development, the Human Rights Protection Cell of Odisha police probing a dowry harassment case against former Odisha law minister Raghunath Mohanty and his family members on Saturday arrested him and his wife Pritilata Mohanty in Kolkata.
Women members of the BJP protest against chief minister Naveen Patnaik and former minister Raghunath Mohanty in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. (PTI Photo)
“They were arrested early in the morning,” said Crime Branch and HRPC additional director general BK Sharma said.
After bringing Mohanty and his wife back to Odisha’s Balasore town, about 200 km east of Bhubaneswar, the HRPC produced them before a sub-divisional magistrate court.
The court sent them to judicial custody till April 2 when their bail application would come up for hearing.
Following his arrest, the ruling Biju Janata Dal removed him as vice president of the party.
The 64-year-old senior BJD leader – who resigned on March 15 as state law minister after his daughter-in-law lodged a dowry harassment complaint against him, his wife, son, daughter and son-in-law – had not been seen in public since then, adding to the discomfiture of Odisha’s ruling party and chief minister Naveen Patnaik.
“I am happy that HRPC has arrested Mohanty and his wife. But I will get justice after all the five I had named in FIR are behind bars,” said Barsa Soni Choudhury, Mohanty’s daughter-in-law.
Barsa Soni had lodged the dowry harassment complaint in Balasore district town police station on March 14, triggering Mohanty’s resignation.
She had alleged that Mohanty and his family members had demanded Rs. 25 lakh cash and a Scorpio vehicle torturing her physically and mentally.
Following a public outcry, Patnaik had transferred the case to the HRPC to “ensure free and fair investigation”.
The HRPC had arrested Mohanty’s son Raja Shree on March 17. But as Mohanty and other family members remained incommunicado, the opposition Congress and Bhartiya Janata Party accused the government of helping them evade arrest.
The Orissa high court has already rejected Mohanty’s petition seeking to quash the first information report against him and his family members.
The BJD was initially trying to distance itself from the issue, treating it a “family affair”.
But when it saw the senior leader, seen as close to Patnaik, was making the party very uncomfortable, leaving he chief minister vulnerable to opposition attacks, it repeatedly appealed him to surrender from Tuesday till Friday.
“Our chief minister has always maintained law will take its own course. Mohanty’s arrest has proved that beyond doubt,” said senior minister Kalpataru Das.