The Odisha Police on Saturday arrested senior Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader and former state law minister Raghunath Mohanty, who was on the run for the last 15 days after a dowry harassment case was filed against him and his family by his daughter-in-law Barsa Soni Choudhury.
Official sources said a team of Human Rights Protection Cell (HRPC) of the state police nabbed Mohanty and his wife Pritilata Mohanty after raiding a rented apartment in Howrah district in the neighbouring West Bengal. Mohanty’s wife, son, daughter and son-in-law are also booked in the case.
“Both Raghunath Mohanty and his wife Pritilata, have been arrested and brought to Balasore,” Additional Director General of Police (HRPC and Crime Branch) B K Sharma said. The couple have been sent to judicial custody after their production in a Balasore court on Saturday afternoon.
Raghunath’s son Raja Shree Mohanty has already been arrested and is currently lodged in a Balasore prison. However, his daughter and son-in-law are still at large.
Police sources said the HRPC team was camping in West Bengal for the last four days and managed to trace Mohanty by tracking mobiles he was using and following a vehicle carrying Odisha registration number.
“It was difficult to trace the former minister, who had fled to the neighbouring state, as he was not using his own mobile phone. He was using others’ cell phones and was changing them frequently,” said a source in the crime branch.
Barsa had filed her complaint in a police station in Balasore town on late in the night of March 14. She alleged that she was being mentally and physically tortured by her husband and in-laws for Rs 25 lakh cash and an SUV. She had also alleged that her husband was having extra marital affairs.
Mohanty, a five-time MLA from the Basta constituency in Balasore district, resigned from the state Cabinet a day after he was booked, on March 15, on “moral grounds and for a free and fair investigation”. The state government had handed over the case to the HRPC, which functions under the crime branch, for a thorough probe.
Even as the investigation started, Mohanty and members of his family went underground. Despite conducting raids on his houses in capital Bhubaneswar and Balasore, the HRPC could not find him but managed to arrest his son from a place near Cuttack on March 17.
Mohanty’s disappearance caused a major embarrassment to the ruling BJD after the opposition parties launched a scathing attack and the issue had also rocked the state Assembly.