Orissa High Court dismisses plea for change of judge

November 17th, 2008 - 3:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Bhubaneswar, Nov 17 (IANS) Orissa High Court Monday rejected a plea by a Christian body for change of the judge heading the judicial commission appointed by the government to probe communal violence in the state, a lawyer said.The division bench of Orissa High court comprising chief Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan and justice B.N. Mohapatra dismissed the petition filed by the Utkal Christian Council Nov 7, the council’s lawyer Prasanna Kumar Nanda told IANS.

Orissa government appointed S.C. Mohapatra, a retired judge of the Orissa High Court Sept 2 to the one-man judicial commission that will probe the killing of a Hindu leader Aug 23 and the communal violence that followed.

The council, represented through its secretary Jyotsna Rani Patro, filed a writ application in the Orissa High court describing the appointment of Mohapatra as illegal.

The council in its petition had said that ‘Mohapatra, a former Lok Pal (vigilance body member), cannot be appointed to head the commission because he is not eligible as per law.

‘As per section 5 of the Lokpal Act, on ceasing to hold office the Lokpal or Lokayukta shall be ineligible for further employment under the state government,’ the council had said.

“The court dismissed the plea. The court said that the commission of inquiry is not a government service so as to come within the purview of the word ‘employment’ and upheld the appointment,” Nanda said.

Kandhamal district, some 200 km from here, had seen large-scale communal violence, mostly attacks on Christians and their places of worship, after the Aug 23 killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda and four of his aides.

Though Maoist rebels claimed responsibility for the killings, some Hindus held Christians responsible for the crime, despite repeated denials by Christian organisations.

The communal violence that ensued claimed at least 38 lives and thousands of Christians had to flee to the jungles to escape rampaging mobs.

While some have returned to their homes, more than 10,000 are still living in government-run relief camps in Kandhamal.

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