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Explained: The gangrape that shook Odisha, cost the Congress CM his chair 22 years ago

Odisha Police on Monday arrested the prime accused in a sensational gangrape case involving the estranged wife of an IFS officer 22 years after the crime. What is the case? Why did it create a political uproar?

Written by Aishwarya Mohanty , Edited by Explained Desk | Bhubaneswar |
Updated: February 24, 2021 7:40:23 am
The prime accused, Bibekananda Biswal alias Biban, managed to evade arrest for more than two decades (Express Photo)

Odisha Police on Monday (February 22) arrested the prime accused in a sensational gangrape case involving the estranged wife of an IFS officer 22 years after the crime, from Maharashtra.

The case had created a political uproar in the state, leading to the resignation of the then Congress Chief Minister, J B Patnaik, in 1999.

What was the case?

The estranged wife of an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer had alleged that she was raped by three men on January 9, 1999.

The woman said in the FIR that the car in which she was travelling from Bhubaneswar to Cuttack with a friend, was intercepted at a desolate place on the outskirts of Bhubaneswar by the three accused riding a scooter.

The accused had held the driver and her friend at gunpoint, and had dragged her to a nearby forest where they had raped her by turns, she said.

Why did the case create a political uproar?

Two years before the incident, on July 12, 1997, the woman had accused the former state advocate general, Indrajit Ray, of attempting to molest her.

On July 19, 1997, she had filed an FIR against Ray at the Cantonment police station in Cuttack, accusing him of attempt to rape. She later accused Patnaik of shielding Ray, who was a close associate of the then Chief Minister.

Ray eventually quit his post following a public outcry, and the case was investigated by the CBI. In February 2000, a CBI court convicted Ray and sentenced him to three years’ rigorous imprisonment.

After the 1999 incident, the woman had alleged that the gangrape was a premeditated act intended to scare her into withdrawing the charges against Ray.

She had also accusing Patnaik of having played a role in the incident.

What was the political fallout of the case?

The case led to an unprecedented public outcry in Odisha. There were protests and strikes across the state. Opposition parties like the CPI, CPI(M), and Janata Dal gave a joint call for a statewide bandh. Following the outcry, Patnaik ordered a judicial inquiry into the incident.

Only days after the alleged gangrape, the gruesome murders of Graham Staines and his two minor sons shook the state. Staines, a Christian missionary, was burnt alive along with his boys in his car in a tribal village in Keonjhar. The murders increased the pressure on Patnaik.

With Assembly elections due in 2000, Patnaik’s critics sought his removal as Chief Minister. In February 1999, he was forced to step down, and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi replaced him with Giridhar Gamang.

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What happened to the accused in the gangrape case?

Two of the accused, Pradip Sahoo and Dhirendra Mohanty, were arrested by the Odisha Police on January 26, 1999.

On February 26, the case was transferred to the CBI after the Orissa High Court ordered an investigation by the central agency. The CBI submitted its chargesheet on May 5, 1999.

On April 29, 2002, Khurda District and Sessions Judge Mahendra Nath Patnaik sentenced Sahoo and Mohanty to life imprisonment and fines of Rs 5,000 each.

The High Court upheld the convictions and sentences in 2010.

In 2020, Sahoo died while undergoing treatment at Capital Hospital, Bhubaneswar. He had been referred to the hospital from Jharpada jail after he complained of chest pain.

Mohanty is still lodged in Jharpada jail.

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