SC Relief For Senior Odisha IAS Officer Manish Agarwal In PA Death Case
New Delhi: The Supreme Court (SC) has stayed the trial proceedings against IAS officer Manish Agarwal in the mysterious death of his personal assistant (PA) in 2019, when he was the collector of Malkangiri.
This came two months after the Orissa High Court quashed the murder charge levelled against him while sustaining the charge of abetment to suicide and criminal conspiracy. The officer then moved the SC, challenging the June 26 HC order and got a reprieve with the interim stay. The case is related to the death of his then PA, Deba Narayan Panda, who went missing on December 27, 2019, and a day later, his body was fished out from Satiguda Dam.
While police initially registered a case of unnatural death and suicide, Panda’s wife levelled allegation of murder against the then collector. Agarwal and three other staff were later booked under Sections 302 (murder), 506 (intimidation), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence) and 204 (destruction of document or electronic record) of IPC. After registration of the case, the state government had shifted him as deputy secretary of the planning and convergence department.
Modifying the lower court order, which had taken cognisance of charges against senior IAS officer, the HC had substituted the offence of murder with the offence of abetting suicide. The Single Judge Bench of Justice Sashikanta Mishra had observed that there is prima facie no evidence to even suggest the death was homicidal in nature. It, however, directed the trial court to proceed against Agarwal for the offence of abetting suicide and dispose of the case preferably within eight months.
The officer’s petition was taken up for hearing in the SC on Monday and the bench of Justices MM Sundresh and JB Pardiwala issued notice, returnable within six weeks to the concerned state government authorities. “In the meanwhile, there shall be stay of further proceedings in the case,” it said in its interim order said.