Unable to persuade former Odisha law minister and dowry torture accused Raghunath Mohanty to surrender, the ruling Biju Janata Dal on Friday asked him to respect the law of the land or face consequences.
"Through the media, I will like to request Raghunath Mohanty to cooperate with the law before the matter gets more complicated," government Deputy Whip Sanjay Dasburma told reporters.
Dasburma's appeal to Mohanty, who is on the run, came three days after BJD chief whip Pravat Tripathy appealed to the former minister to surrender. Tripathy had also said Mohanty should give himself up immediately in the interest of the BJD.
Raghunath Mohanty, who resigned from the cabinet on March 15, a day after his daughter-in-law Barsa Swony Choudhury lodged an FIR against him and his family members, remained incommunicado. Mohanty's petition -- seeking legal protection against arrest -- was also turned down by the high court.
Barsa had alleged that she was tortured physically and mentally at Mohanty’s residence for dowry.
"My father-in-law (Mohanty) was instrumental in the torture," she has said.
Besides being a long time Member of Legislative Assembly and a minister, Mohanty was also a vice-president of the BJD. The ruling party, which initially termed the dowry torture case against Mohanty a "family affair", later requested him to surrender in the face of growing demand by opposition parties.
Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party have targeted Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and held him responsible for Mohanty’s escape. "Why did the chief Minister not ask police to arrest Mohanty after he resigned on March 15," asked Congress Chief Whip Prasad Harichandan.
Reacting to the allegations, BJD deputy whip Dasburma said, "The chief minister, during his 13-year tenure, has not interfered in the process of law. He has not shielded anyone. His policy of the law taking its own course is applicable to everyone, including Mohanty."
Though Mohanty's son Raja Shree was arrested and jailed in connection with the dowry torture case, four other accused including Mohanty, his wife Pritilata, daughter Rupasree and son-in-law Suvendu Madhal are yet to be located by the police.
Mohanty's official residence has been locked since March 15 and his house at Amrada Road in Balasore is being guarded by a cook.
"We do not have any confirmed information about Mohanty's whereabouts," a senior police officer said, adding that the police suspected that the former law minister might have fled from the state.