In a major jolt to the ruling Biju Janata Dal government in Odisha, one of its senior most ministers, Raghunath Mohanty, resigned on Friday from his post after his daughter-in-law lodged a dowry torture complaint against him, his wife, son and other family members.
The cabinet minister holding the portfolios of law, housing and urban development and information technology handed over his resignation to chief minister Naveen Patnaik at his residence in the morning. “The allegations are false and fabricated. I resigned from my post on moral ground,” said the senior leader, who represents Basta assembly seat in Balasore for the fifth time.
The Odisha assembly witnessed uproar over the issue even as Patnaik announced Mohanty’s resignation from the council of ministers. “I have forwarded the resignation on moral grounds to the governor. In order to ensure a free and fair investigation, the case has been transferred to the (state) Human rights Protection Cell, “ Patnaik said.
The assembly had to be adjourned repeatedly as opposition Congress and BJP demanded a statement from Mohanty and discussion on the issue.
Mohanty’s son Rajasree Mohanty (28) had married Barsha Soni Choudhury (23) in in June 24 last year. On Thursday night, she lodged a complaint in the Balasore town police station, about 200 km east of Bhubaneswar, alleging that the family including Mohanty’s daughter and son-in-law tortured her physically and mentally as she did not give in to their dowry demands.
“They had demanded Rs. 25 lakh and a Scorpio vehicle. They started torturing me when my parents failed to meet their demands,” she said in her complaint, adding that her parents had given Rs. 10 lakh and other household articles during the time of marriage.
Claiming her torture had started from the fifth day of her marriage with Mohanty’s son, Barsha, an engineering graduate, said her husband had plans for contesting as a legislator in the general elections next year. “He needed the money to fund it,” she said.
Police said they registered a case against the minister and others on charge of dowry harassment, criminal intimidation and trespassing (under section 498 (A), 506, 448 and 34 of Indian Penal Code) on the basis of her complaint.