Former Odisha law minister, wife sent to judicial custody

Bhubaneswar, March 30 (IANS) Former Odisha law minister Raghunath Mohanty and his wife Pritilata Mohanty were Saturday remanded to judicial custody, hours after they were arrested for allegedly torturing their daughter-in-law for dowry, his lawyer said.

The couple were presented before the court of a sub-divisional judicial magistrate at the district headquarters town of Balasore. They were remanded to judicial custody till April 2, lawyer Gouri Kumar Barik told IANS.

The court concluded its hearing on the bail plea moved by the couple and fixed April 2 to announce its verdict on the matter, he said.

Meanwhile, BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik removed Raghunath as the party’s vice president.

The opposition Congress said the former minister and his family should be tried in a fast-track court.

“This will send out a strong message that no one is above the law, besides restoring the dignity of women who suffer violence in and outside their homes,” state Congress president Niranjan Patnaik said.

Raghunath and his wife Pritilata were arrested from Kolkata Saturday, nearly a fortnight after their 28-year-old son Raja Shree Mohanty was arrested March 17, in the same case.

According to Additional Director General of Police B.K. Sharma, the Mohanty couple had rented an apartment in Kolkata and were hiding there.

“They were arrested around 3.30 a.m. today (Saturday)” Sharma told IANS.

Raghunath, 64, is a five-time legislator from Basta constituency in Balasore district. He had remained incommunicado ever since he resigned from the state cabinet March 15, a day after his daughter-in-law accused him of torturing her for dowry.

Raghunath was holding the portfolios of urban development, law and information technology.

In her police complaint, the victim – Barsa Swony Choudhury – alleged March 14 that she was physically and mentally tortured by her husband Raja Shree, 24, ever since she married to him in June 2012.

She alleged that her father-in-law Raghunath, mother-in-law Pritilata, sister-in-law Rupashree and other family members were also involved in the crime.

She claimed that her parents had given Rs.10 lakh at the time of the marriage, as was demanded, but the Mohanty’s insisted on Rs.25 lakh more and a multi-utility vehicle.

Raja Shree Mohanty was arrested after a public outcry and protests by angry opposition parties. He was remanded to a 14-day judicial custody a day later after his bail plea was rejected.

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