February 6, 2021 6:03:22 pm
The Orissa High Court Wednesday dismissed the state Lokayukta’s order for a Vigilance Department investigation against Gopalpur MLA Pradeep Panigrahi, who was arrested by the Crime Branch last year in a cheating case.
The High Court Division bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice Biswanath Rath ruled that a complainant can not be the investigator in a quasi-judicial proceeding, said the legislator’s lawyer Pitambar Acharya.
On December 11, the Lokayukta had directed the Vigilance Department to conduct a preliminary inquiry against the MLA and submit a report within two months. The anti-corruption ombudsman had issued the direction after a recommendation from Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. Notably, this was the first case of corruption allegation which was referred to Odisha Lokayukta by the state government after its formation. Panigrahi had filed a petition challenging the order in the High Court. Hearing the petition, the court observed that such direction was not acceptable as the Vigilance Department was the petitioner before the Lokayukta.
The legislator was arrested by the Crime Branch on December 3 last year in a case of cheating involving Akash Pathak, son of suspended IFS officer Abhay Pathak. They were arrested for conning people by posing as officials of Tata group and offering “jobs” under charges of impersonation, cheating, forgery, criminal conspiracy and other cyber offences.
Panigrahi was also expelled from the BJD by party chief Naveen Patnaik for “anti-people” activity. The legislator is currently lodged in the special jail at Jharpada in state capital Bhubaneswar. His bail plea was rejected by the Sub-Divisional Judicial Magistrate Court in Bhubaneswar on December 3.
Panigraphi had however rebutted all the allegations against him and called out the party for the grounds of his expulsion, stating he was being framed for raising his voice against Covid-19 management in the state.
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