The Orissa High Court on Friday refused to dismiss proceedings against Odisha Infratech in an alleged land grabbing case, where fraudulent financial transactions were used to con those belonging to the Scheduled Castes, reported Bar and Bench.
The High Court also paved the way for the arrest of Bharatiya Janata Party National Vice President Baijayant Jay Panda and his wife Jagi Mangat Panda, the owners of the company, by reversing all earlier interim orders giving them protection from arrest, according to The Indian Express.
The company has allegedly bought land from landholders belonging to the Scheduled Caste community, and registered the purchased property in the names of people in the SC community. The lands, spanning over seven acres, were later bought at rates 50% under the benchmark value and taken over by the company for real estate work.
The company was charged under provisions of the Scheduled Caste Atrocities Act, Prohibition of Benami Properties Transaction Act, Income Tax, and Odisha Land Reforms Act, reported Live Law. The Pandas had approached the High Court for quashing the first information against them and the company.
During Friday’s hearing, the court of Justice BP Routray said: “I am not inclined to interfere with the criminal proceeding, more particularly at the stage of pending investigation and accordingly, the prayer of the petitioners is rejected and the Criminal Misc. Case is dismissed.”
The company claimed that the FIR against the Pandas was registered by the state government as Odisha TV, which is owned by Jai Mangat Panda, had publicised a conversation of two friends about their experience at hospitals during their Covid-19 treatment.
On October 31, the Economic Offences Wing of the Odisha Police registered an FIR, which alleged that a person from a Dalit community, Rabindra Kumar Sethi, who also worked as Panda’s driver at the time, had been coerced to buy over seven acres of land from Dalits in Odisha’s Khurda district. The land was bought between 2010 and 2013.
On Saturday, the BJP leader and his wife released a statement refuting all the claims, reported The Indian Express. “There has been no wrongdoing by us and we are confident that this will ultimately be proved in the courts,” Jagi Mangat Panda said.