Christian Council challenges appointment of Mohapatra

CUTTACK: The Orissa High Court on Wednesday completed hearing on the petition of Utkal Christian Council challenging appointment of former Lok Pal Justice (Retd) S.C. Mohapatra as Kandhamal probe panel chief and fixed November 17 for delivery of judgment.

The bench of Chief Justice B S Chauhan and Justice B N Mohapatra also directed both Christian council (petitioner) and Orissa government to submit their respective written arguments to court by Friday. Meanwhile, on the miscellaneous petition filed by the petitioner on Wednesday itself urging the court for an interim stay on the proceedings of the Kandhamal judicial commission, the bench refused to grant any relief to the Christian Council.

Earlier in the day, state Advocate General (AG) B.K. Mahanti opposed the main petition of the Christian Council arguing that the contents of the petition lacks merit and should be summarily rejected. “Commission is not a public post and he (Justice S.C. Mohapatra) has been appointed to conduct a judicial enquiry about a particular matter and accordingly it is not an employment under the government,” the AG argued. It may be recalled that the Christian Council member Jyotshna Rani Patra in her petition had alleged that the appointment of former Lok Pal had been made with a mala fide intention to defeat the purpose of the probe.

“Since Section 5 (3) of Orissa Lok Pal and Lokayuktas Act-1995 debars a former Lok Pal to hold any further employment under state government, Justice Mohapatra’s appointment to head the probe panel is illegal,” the petitioner said. Chief minister Naveen Patnaik had announced for a judicial probe into Kandhamal strife on Aug. 24, just the day after Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati was brutally killed along with four of his disciples.