Considered one of the closest to Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, Law and Urban Development Minister Raghunath Mohanty on Friday resigned on moral grounds after his daughter-in-law filed a dowry case against him and his family members.
Naveen announced Mohanty’s resignation in the Assembly even as the Opposition stalled the proceedings demanding the Minister’s arrest. Naveen said the case has been handed over to the Human Rights Protection Cell (HRPC) of the State police for a free and fair investigation.
Criticising the Chief Minister for trying to shield his close aide, the Opposition objected to the handing over of the case to the HRPC. It is a criminal case and law should take its own course, Leader of Opposition Bhupinder Singh said and asked how may dowry cases relating to general public are referred to the HRPC. The case has been referred to the HRPC only to dilute it and protect the Minister, he said.
The Minister rushed to Naveen Nivas at 8.45 am and tendered his resignation in the wake of registration of a case at Balasore police station against him and his family members. “I have submitted my resignation to the Chief Minister on moral grounds,” Mohanty told mediapersons outside Naveen Nivas, while refuting the charges levelled by Barsha Sony Mohanty, his daughter-in-law.
Barsha had lodged an FIR against the Minister, his wife Pritilata, son Rajasree and other members of the family on Thursday night. “Allegation against me and my family is totally false and baseless. The people of Balasore know the truth. Let the law take its own course,” said Mohanty, five-time MLA from Basta constituency in Balasore district. Mohanty had been a Minister since 2006 and held important portfolios, including Parliamentary Affairs, Steel and Mines, Panchayatiraj, Law, Urban Development and Housing, Industries and Information Technology.
Mohanty is the 15th Minister to have been shown the door by Naveen in his third term. The first to go in the third term was Women and Child Development Minister Pramila Mallik, who had to resign in the wake of ‘dal’ scam in the midday meal scheme (MDM) on February 5, 2011.
Damodar Rout, Bijay Ranjan Singh Bariha and Praveen Bhanjadeo were asked to resign before the first reshuffle on May 8, 2011. Excise Minister A U Singhdeo had to quit on February 15, 2012 because of the hooch tragedy in Khurda and Cuttack districts, which claimed 33 lives.
The then Agriculture Minister Pradip Maharathi had to quit on January 19, 2012 on charges of sheltering rape accused. Eight ministers, including the long serving Finance Minister Prafulla Chandra Ghadei, had to quit for allegedly extending tacit support to rebel leader Pyarimohan Mohapatra in the May 29, 2012 ‘coup’ attempt.