Odisha EOW Raid On Sambad: ‘Politically-Motivated’ Attack To Scuttle Voice Of Media, Says BJP
Bhubaneswar: A day after Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Odisha Crime Branch raided the office of Sambad in a loan fraud case, senior BJP leader Samir Mohanty on Tuesday termed it as ‘sponsored’ attack to scuttle the voice of media.
Briefing a presser here, the BJP leader said that the citizens’ right to question the government on its actions is a hallmark of a democracy and further strengthens it. “Use of government machinery to suppress those raising issues concerning 4.2 crore Odias is unacceptable. This autocratic mindset of the party and the government can spell doom for a peace-loving state like Odisha,” he said.
Mohanty alleged that the government had no issue with the media organisation till its editor, who is also a BJD MLA, protected its interests through his newspaper. “The office was raided the moment he started questioning the ruling dispensation. It is politically motivated and something, which was never witnessed in Odisha before,” he added.
In her retort, Revenue Minister Pramila Mallik said that everything is being done as per the provision in law. “The raids are not being conducted keeping a grudge against anyone. Nothing has been done to choke the voice of media as being alleged,” she said.
On Monday, the EOW had clarified that it was investigating the case in a free and fair manner and also denied reports that it was acting under pressure. “During entire raid search, EOW officers were very polite to Sambad officials. Search was conducted ensuring that there is no inconvenience to the staff and without disturbing the daily work of the newspaper,” it said.
The raid was conducted at the office of the leading daily on the basis of a complaint lodged by a former employee against its editor Soumya Ranjan Patnaik and HR head Baijayanti Kar on September 16, alleging that he was forced to take a loan from a bank in the city in 2015 by submitting required documents, but he never received the loan amount.
“The victim was allegedly forced by the accused persons to sign on some bank loan forms against his will and against his paying capacity. He was threatened that if he did not follow the dictate then he would lose his job. Under this threat and pressure, he was forced to sign many blank forms/documents, including some blank cheques. At that time, he did not know the details but later came to know that a loan of Rs 5 lakh was taken in his name but actually it was used by Sambad/Eastern Media Limited, Bhubaneswar. He did not get a single penny out of this loan. He was forced to sign for such loans on two different occasions in two different banks,” the EOW said in a release.
The FIR further alleged that more than 300 employees of the media house were forced to sign on forged documents and about Rs 50 crore was fraudulently secured by Soumya Patnaik, using these forged papers and threatening staff of Sambad, it further said.
The EOW said that some vital witnesses were examined during the course of investigation and a number of incriminating documents collected during the searches. “So far, 15-20 ex-employees of Sambad have come forward with complaints of such forceful loans taken against their names using forged documents. Further investigation is on,” it added.
Notably, Soumya had recently grabbed headlines for his critical views on the ruling dispensation and 5T secretary V K Pandian. In editorial articles in the Odia daily as well as bytes to journalists, the legislator had attacked 5T secretary’s whirlwind district visits and stranglehold over the government and party. He was slammed by BJD leaders, who accused him of blackmailing the party, and was removed from the post of party’s vice-president on September 12.