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Abuse case poser

Cuttack, March 25: The ghost of the Gayatri Panda sexual harassment case involving former Speaker Maheswar Mohanty is set to haunt chief minister Naveen Patnaik ahead of the elections.

Orissa High Court has decided to proceed with the hearing in the alleged sexual harassment case. The court has fixed April 7 to start hearing on the case and the division bench of justices I.M. Qudussi and B.P. Ray has been assigned to the task, court sources said.

Elections in Orissa are scheduled for April 16 and 23.

The high court had admitted the sexual harassment case petition on December 24 and records, including the case diary related to the FIR, were called for on January 29. Notices were issued to the state home department, state women’s commission, state human rights commission and the former Speaker. But hearing on the case had not started, pending receipt of replies to notices from all parties.

Mohanty, a senior BJD leader and Puri MLA, had stepped down from the Speaker’s post on “moral grounds” after harassment charges were slapped against him in March 2008.

Gayatri, 30, the Assembly marshal, had lodged an FIR at Bhubaneswar Mahila police station alleging that Mohanty had harassed her after she refused to grant him “favours”.

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