HC Hauls Up Odisha Lokayukta Over Vigilance Probe Into Pradeep Panigrahi Case
Cuttack: In a landmark judgement, the Orissa High Court on Wednesday rejected the order of the Odisha Lokayukta for a vigilance probe into corruption charges against Gopalpur MLA and expelled BJD leader Pradeep Kumar Panigrahi.
Talking to the media, senior lawyer and counsel of Panigrahi, Pitambar Acharya said that the division bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Biswanath Rath rejected the probe order with a ruling that as per the fundamental principles in the law, a complainant cannot be the investigator in a quasi-judicial proceeding.
He also said that that the court also took strong exception to the statement of the Lokakyuta prior to the preliminary inquiry that the State Vigilance, through a secret verification, has found evidence of corruption against Panigrahi.
Acharya also said that the manner in which it was projected that the Vigilance case against Panigrahi was referred to Lokayukta on the recommendation of the Chief Minister, is a blatant lie. “In fact, the complaint was lodged by a Vigilance DSP on the directive of the Vigilance Director,” Acharya said.
He further said the court in its ruling also observed that the statement of the Lokayukta that it is a prima facie case, is a gross violation of section 20 of the Lokayukta Act which empowers it to only conduct a preliminary investigation.
It may be recalled that the Lokayukta in an order on December 11 last year had directed the State Vigilance to conduct a preliminary inquiry against the arrested Gopalpur MLA and submit a report within two months.
It was said that the Lokayukta had issued the directive after accepting the recommendation of the Chief Minister, who had referred the case of corruption charges Panigrahi on December 7.
Challenging the order of the Lokayukta, Panigrahi had moved the High Court.
The Crime Branch had arrested Panigrahi on December 3 last year in connection with a case of cheating. It was alleged that he had collected money on behalf of Akash Kumar Pathak (son of the suspended IFS officer Abhay Kant Pathak) by falsely promising jobs in Tata Motors.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had expelled Panigrahi from the primary membership of the BJD on November 29 on charges of ‘anti-people activities’.
Panigrahi is currently lodged in the Special Jail at Jharpada in the state capital after his bail plea was rejected by Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate (SDJM) Court, Bhubaneswar on December 3.