After remaining fugitive for over a fortnight, former Odisha Law minister Raghunath Mohanty (64) and his wife Pritilata Mohanty (56) were arrested from West Bengal in the wee hour on Saturday for their alleged involvement in a dowry torture case slapped by their daughter-in-law. For the first time in the State that a minister had to resign and was later arrested on dowry charges.
Police sources said the two were arrested by the sleuths of Human Rights Protection Cell (HRPC) of Odisha police from a building near Shalimar and produced in the court of Sub Divisional Judicial Magistrate (SDJM) at Balasore which reserved the judgement on their bail pleas till April 2. They will be in judicial custody till the court verdict is announced.
The arrest of Mohanty couple came a day after Deputy Chief Whip of BJD in the Assembly Sanjay Das Burma suggested the former minister to respect the law and surrender. Earlier, the High Court had rejected two separate petitions filed by Mohanty for quashing of the FIR filed by his daughter-in-law and giving him interim relief.
Additional Director General of Police and Chief of HRPC Bijay Kumar Sharma said the former minister and his wife Pritilata were arrested from an apartment at Betaitola in the neighbouring state's Howrah district at about 3.30 am. “They were frequently changing their cell phone numbers and traced after tapping over 50 telephones. They were residing in two flats since March 20 rented in the name of different persons,” he said.
The HRPC team brought five-time MLA from Basta constituency Mohanty, who is also the vice president of BJD and his wife to the Marine Police Station at Chandipur and interrogated them for over a couple of hours. They were then taken to a defence guest house and defence hospital where they were medically examined before being produced in the SDJM court amidst tight security.
Additional Public Prosecutor (APP) Arun Behera said SDJM Ranjan Kumar Sutar who heard their bail applications reserved his judgement till April 2 and also sought production of the updated case diary.
On March 14, Mohanty's daughter-in-law Barsa Swony Choudhury (23) had lodged a complaint at the Balasore Town Police station accusing the former minister, his son and three members of his family of physically and mentally torturing her for additional dowry.
A BTech in Information Technology Barsa had alleged that the Mohanty family had demanded Rs 25 lakh and a SUV as dowry ever since her marriage on June 24, 2012. She too had accused her husband Raja Shree Mohanty (28) of having extra-marital relations with a number of girls. Earlier, Raja Shree was arrest by the HRPC team from Chouduar near Cuttack and is in jail custody since March 18. His bail applications have been rejected twice.
While a case had been registered against Mohanty, his wife Pritilata, son Raja Shree, daughter Rupashree and son-in-law Suvendu Madhual, a paediatrician under section 498 (A), 506, 448 and 34 of IPC and section 4 of Dowry Prohibition Act, Rupashree and Suvendu are still absconding. HRPC officials said efforts were on to arrest them.
Meanwhile, Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee President Niranjan Patnaik has demanded trial of the case in a Fast Track court. Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik who was on New Delhi tour told reporters that the law would take its own course and guilty be punished.