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High court heat on government lawyer

Cuttack, May 14: Orissa High Court today slammed the advocate-general’s office for the “pathetic” way it conducted a compensation claim case after illegally detaining a tribal youth for eight years.

On April 25, the registrar of the court of the civil judge (Phulbani), R. Panda, was issued a notice that asked him to furnish details on the illegal detention of Pratap Naik and the action taken in the case. On May 7 the registrar was summoned to the court after the notice failed to elicit any response.

But to the court’s dismay, the registrar appeared in person today and said he had not received any notice. The state counsel, Patitapabana Panda, attributed the lapse to “malfunctioning” of the fax machine at the advocate-general’s office.

The two-judge bench of chief justice A.K. Ganguly and Justice Indrajit Mohanty issued a notice to the advocate-general to take note of the “displeasure” expressed by the court.

The court has given time till tomorrow to receive an affidavit explaining the circumstances under which the tribal youth was detained in jail for over eight years in a murder case though he was acquitted by the high court. The registrar is also expected to furnish the latest report on the action taken to punish those responsible for the detainment.

The high court is hearing a PIL seeking compensation of Rs 10 lakh for the illegal detention. Advocate Prabir Kumar Das, a human rights activist, had filed the PIL.

The victim of illegal detention, a resident of Ghimuhani village under Puruna Katak police station in Boudh district, was 14 when he was first sent to jail by the court of Phulbani district and sessions judge. He was acquitted by the high court in October 1994, but was released from jail only on January 22, 2003.

Earlier, the state government had filed an affidavit attributing the illegal detention to a clerk’s negligence at the court of the sessions judge. The clerk had been punished, the affidavit had stated. But later the court found the affidavit lacking clarity and sought more details.

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