High Court Takes Cognizance of Evidence against Panda Family and Cancels Its Order against Protection from Arrest

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Bhubaneswar: The Orissa High Court judgment on the infamous land grabbing case in Sarua in Khordha district has made it distinct that the company Odisha Infratech Private Limited owned by BJP national vice president Baijayant Panda and his non-Odia entrepreneur wife Jagi Mangat Panda family has made gross wrongdoings.

In its judgment, the High Court has dismissed the petition of Odisha Infratech seeking quash the FIR filled in EOW in connection with the land grabbing case.
While the pronouncing the verdict, Justice B.P Routray ruled that the court is not inclined to interfere with the criminal proceedings, more particularly at the stage of pending investigation and accordingly rejected the plea of Odisha Infratech.

The High Court also vacated all the interim orders that gave protection from arrest to industrialist-politician Baijayant Panda and Jagi Mangat Panda.

Baijayant Panda has ownership of more than 15 companies ranging from ferro-chrome, mines, media and real estate. One among these companies is Odisha Infratech Pvt Ltd (OITPL) where Panda has about 90% stake.

OITPL bought about 100 acres of land in Sarua, Khurda district of Odisha out of which more than 10 acres is Scheduled Caste land.

As per Odisha Land Reforms Act, non-SC people cannot buy SC land. Only SC people can buy SC land.

To bypass this law, Panda, being a shrewd businessman, used his driver Rabindra Kumar Sethi, a SC person to buy this SC land in Sarua and then transferred it from him to his company OITPL.

Sethi joined as a driver in the Panda’s family owned-Ortel Communication in 1999 with initial salary of Rs 800 per month and became permanent in the year 2007. He is a poor fellow having no property except the homestead land in his native village and he quit the job from the company in January, 2017 as the company defaulted in paying his salary for four months.

Odisha Infratech purchased more than 7 acres of land in mouza-Sarua and Loknathpur under Begunia Tahasil of Khordha district from Sethi by executing three sale deeds on 21.5.2016, 2.8.2016 and 11.9.2019 for total consideration amount of Rs.65,32,100, though no actual amount is paid. It is further alleged that the said lands were originally recorded in the names of scheduled caste persons, which were purchased by the driver during the period from 22.6.2010 to 1.3.2013 from twenty two scheduled caste persons upon execution of many sale deeds at very low price, which is 50% lesser than the bench mark valuation.

It is thus alleged that the company with the aid of directors (who have recently resigned from company) and others by hatching the criminal conspiracy grabbed the lands of scheduled caste persons for the benefit of company, taking advantage of the suppressed position of Rabindra Sethi and his financial, social and educational backwardness as well as of all the original tenants.

Rabi Sethi and 22 SC land owners complained to Khurda Collector stating this action as illegal and fraud.

Khurda Collector recommended a Crime Branch enquiry which found these allegations to be true and arrested two persons, one being an OITPL Director.
Baijayant Panda’s OITPL has been found to have violated provisions of Scheduled Caste Atrocities Act, Odisha Land Reforms Act, Prohibition of Benami Properties Transaction Act and Income Tax Act.

Most of these transactions were in cash even after demonetisation (details given to IT Department) Baijayant Panda used a SC person and dispossessed 22 poor SC persons off their land, turning them into landless poor SC people.

A similar modus operandi used by Baijayant Panda came to light in Puri district three days back, which might have also been done across Odisha.

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