Minister quits over dalit gangrape case
Bhubaneswar, Jan 19 2012, DHNS:
Agriculture minister and senior Biju Janata Dal leader Pradip
Maharathi, whose name cropped up in the recent case of alleged gang
rape of a dalit girl in his Assembly constituency of Pipli in coastal
Puri district, resigned from the Cabinet on Thursday.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik sent his resignation letter to Governor
M C Bhandare for acceptance. "This morning, Maharathi came to me and
submitted his resignation letter, which I have forwarded to the
Governor," Patnaik told reporters at the secretariat.
The Opposition parties and women's organisations had been pressing for
Maharathi's resignation after the family of the victim revealed that
the perpetrators of the crime were close associates of the senior
minister. The Opposition had also charged the minister of protecting
the accused persons.
Maharathi, however, refuted the allegations and insisted that he
resigned from his post to protect the prestige and image of his party
and leader, and to pave the way for a free and fair investigation into
the incident. The state government has already ordered a judicial as
well as crime branch probe into the sensational case.
"I am innocent and prepared to face any kind of investigation. The
truth must come out and culprits involved in the crime must be
punished," he told reporters soon after submitting his resignation
letter to the chief minister at the latter's residence.
Opposition parties who continued to demand a CBI probe and resignation
of the chief minister, who heads Home department, on moral grounds.
"The minister's resignation is not sufficient. The chief minister
should resign and hand over the case to the CBI for a free and fair
investigation", state Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik said.
The crime branch arrested Sukanta Pradhan, the fourth and final
accused on Thursday.
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