Industrialist and managing director of Odisha Stevedores Ltd (OSL) Mahimananda Mishra on Thursday got a breather from Orissa High Court in connection with the murder of Mahendra Swain, an executive of Hyderabad-based stevedoring company Seaways Shipping and Logistics Limited.
He is accused of hiring killers to eliminate him.
It was for the second time that the High Court granted him bail in this case. Earlier, he had to surrender before the Judicial Magistrate First Class (JMFC) court in Kujang on September 19, 2018, after the Supreme Court rejected the conditional bail granted by the High Court on May 26, 2017.
Mahendra Swain was shot dead by hired killers, who first hurled bombs at his vehicle while he was on his way to his office in Paradip, on the morning of October 26, 2016.
Swain’s brother Rajkishore named Mishra and three executives of his firm in his police complaint.
Police had initially arrested six men, including Congress leader Bapi Sarkhel, for allegedly harbouring and providing logistical support to the killers.
Police had issued a look out circular against Mishra and three other OSL’s employees.
Two months later, he was arrested by Thailand’s Immigration Police in Bangkok on December 25, 2016. According to the Bangkok Post, Mishra along with some of his family members and handful of security guards had entered Thailand on a tourist visa from Nepal.
Odisha police too had confirmed that Mishra and his aide Basant Bal had escaped to Kathmandu on a 15-day tourist visa after hiding at several places in the country following Swain’s murder. They were arrested and brought to Bhubaneswar via Kolkata on December 26, 2016.
The then inspector general of police Soumendra Priyadarshi, who was supervising the investigation, had said that there was clinching evidence that Mishra had hired killers to eliminate Swain.
“An amount of Rs 12 lakh was paid to Rakesh Choubey from Mishra’s office in September. We even have evidence that Choubey was taken for a spin by Mishra in his personal jet,” he had then told the Hindustan Times.
A postgraduate from Utkal University, Mishra launched his stevedoring company in 1978 and controlled cargo operations at Paradip Port for over three decades. He had made a fortune by providing labour for loading and unloading cargo at the port, India’s second largest after Gujarat’s Kandla Port.
“Mishra’s stevedoring association was a cartel that effectively decided cargo-handling rates at Paradip port, arm-twisting even major corporates into paying high rates. If any stevedoring company tried to defy him, Mishra would ensure that his work comes to a standstill. His goons kept everybody terrorised,” said a senior shipping executive of a cargo company in Odisha told the national daily.
Trouble started when a consortium of three companies, including the Hyderabad-based Seaways Shipping and Logistic Ltd, formed a separate Utkal Stevedores Association to challenge his authority. In 2015, he lost a few contracts to the association.
He then engineered a week-long shutdown of the port. But when it did not work, he hired some people from Jamshedpur to eliminate Swain, according to police sources.
Mishra went incommunicado a day after the murder, but soon ran out of luck and was arrested by police. He was released from judicial custody on June 19, 2018, only to return after three months as the Supreme Court revoked the bail granted to him by the High Court. For past six months, he has been undergoing treatment at AIIMS, Bhubaneswar, on the order of the High Court.