Paralakhemundi ACF Death: Wife, former DFO move Orissa HC against lower court’s order

Cuttack: In the latest development in the death case of former Assistant Conservator of Forest (ACF) Soumya Ranjan Mohapatra in Parlakhemundi, his wife Bidya Bharati Panda and former Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Sangram Behera have moved the Orissa High Court challenging the order issued by a lower court.

The two have filed separate petitions in the High Court, challenging the directive of the Paralakhemundi SDJM court, which had in April summoned the duo and cook Manmath Kumbha to appear before it.

They have named the Odisha government and Soumya Ranjan Mohapatra’s father Abhiram as respondents in their petitions.

The SDJM court, on the basis of a petition filed by the deceased’s father, had issued the summon order.

Soumya Ranjan Mohapatra succumbed to burn injuries while undergoing treatment at a private hospital in Cuttack on July 13, 2021. He was admitted to the hospital with 95% burn injuries.

According to reports, the ACF was found in critical condition with burn injuries at his residence on July 12, 2021 in Paralakhemundi. The next day, he was declared dead.

On July 14, his family lodged a complaint against former Gajapati DFO Sangram Behera, deceased’s wife Bidya Bharati Panda and cook Manmath Kumbha alleging murder. Considering the gravity of the incident, the state government had handed over the probe to the Crime Branch on August 14.

On October 8, 2021, Crime Branch gave clean chit to Sangram Behera and Manmath Kumbha, but booked Bidya Bharati under sections 304-A (causing death by negligence) and 285 (negligent conduct with respect to fire or combustible matter) of IPC.

The agency termed the incident as an ‘accidental death’ making it clear that Sangram Behera and Manmath Kumbha had no role in it. Further, the Crime Branch said that the agency during the probe found no evidence of relation between the DFO and Bidya Bharati.

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