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Odisha Government: False affidavit not a crime in the state!
Is filing an affidavit that provides false information and garner benefits by virtue of it, a crime? Common sense says that it should be, as one is swearing lies intentionally. The lawyers will be searching for the law books to find out what section of the CrPC will be applicable and what the penalties are.
But, hold on my lawyer friends, it is not needed. Because it is not a crime in Odisha to file false affidavits, that is what the common men in Odisha made to understand from the recent developments in the state. But, well, a rider applies; you have to be an influential person - a politician or a top notch bureaucrat, for this.

This is the state of affairs in Odisha, where Naveen Patnaik riding on his clean image of being an honest Chief Minister and the popular dole schemes, is ruling for the third term. Contrary to the popular image of the Chief Minister, under his rule Bhubaneswar Development Authority (BDA) and Odisha Housing Development Board have used the discretionary powers to allot plots and houses to influential persons, who already have either plots or houses in the state capital.

This is against the stipulation that one who has already been allotted a plot or a house in the state capital cannot be allotted plots or houses under this discretionary quota. This provision has been very easily violated here. One has to simply file an affidavit to circumvent this. So Kalpataru Das, Member of Parliament for Rajya Sabha from Biju Janata Dal and his newly elected MLA son has taken more than one plot from the government under the discretionary quota.

After trying in vain to play around that his, his wife and son's families are different to justify the act, finally the BJD heavy weight has succumbed to the pressure. His MLA son has returned one house each to the Housing Board and BDA. And it seems that Kalpataru Das and his family have washed off their sins.

But the questions that are making rounds in the state is, if acquiring properties from the government through false affidavits and later on returning it back if the heat is too much to bear, okay with the law? Is justice done with this? One mis-informs the State or the Authorities created by the state deliberately through a false affidavit, stating that he/she does not have another property in the state capital (it is a different issue that the Housing Board and the BDA did not do their job in checking with their own list of the earlier beneficiaries) under the discretionary quota and when caught just returns the property.

What about the punishment for providing wrong information through the affidavit and taking the government for a ride and infringing upon the right of the other more deserving aspirants? Is not this a criminal offence?

The recent developments throw out lot many questions like this. First of all after the return of the houses the two state outfits Housing Board and Bhubaneswar Development Authority officials are aware of the fact that Prabab Balabantaray had filed false affidavit and the State is also aware of this. Is it not the duty of the State to ensure that the law of the land prevails?

While the State and these agencies are aware of violation of the law and cheating the government through filing false affidavits is it not the express duty of the state to report the crime to the appropriate authorities for action?

On their part neither the State government nor these departments have taken any action in reporting such a crime or suing the violators. One may argue that the case of Kalpataru Das and Pranab Balababtaray case is just a recent one and it is too early to conclude anything like this. But there are precedents.

Two years back the then Minister Bikram Keshari Arukh also was caught in a similar case of defrauding the state agencies by taking more than one plot under the discretionary quota. He was let off after he returned the second one. It is worth while to mention here that he was the Law Minister. He also continues with the state council of ministers as the Cabinet Minister for Forest & Environment and Parliamentary Affairs.

Be it Rajya Sabha member Kalpataru Das, MLA Pranab Balabantaray or Minister (that too the then Law Minister) Bikram Kehsari Arukh, all of them are the law makers. They make laws for the smooth running of the country and ensure that justice is done to all sections of the society. And as law makers, no where in the constitution they have been authorized to be law breakers and get away with it (though it is a popular perception that once one is in power it is near impossible to bring him/her to book).

Rather, as the law makers it is their express moral duty to abide by the law of the land. Rather than respecting the law these law makers are setting the precedents of breaking it and also getting away with it. Now that the state agencies have let off Pranab Balabantaray and Bikram Keshari Arukh, 14 others, who like these politicians, have acquired more than two properties from BDA and OSHB by making false affidavits may also be hoping for the same. The precedence is set by our law makers. What is going to happen to our country?

Returning of the property that has been acquired based on a false affidavit does not absolve these people of the crime that they have committed. First of all filing of false affidavit violates Indian Oath Act. Secondly this is a crime against the state agency (here BDA) and the State. And thirdly it is also a crime against the other applicants or aspirants.

This is a case of fraud. So how come BDA can choose to not to take legal action against such people who have defrauded the State? It is not a private affair between the BDA and these people who have filed an FIR?

Through such violations the justice system of the country is taken for a ride. When the people at the higher echelons of the society break the law, they set the precedence for others to follow suit. And that is what has happened. Who does not know that the 'Affidavits' are just a 'khanapurti' (formality) or most of the cases either to prove ones eligibility or to provide a safety net to the concerned official in case the irregularity is caught. Who does not know that the affidavits filed by the MLA and MP candidates during filing of nominations that declares their property is better not to be believed?

In many cases the affidavit of property as well as the declarations regarding the election expenditure is at best a bunch of lies. But in the absence of a mechanism to investigate and check the veracity of these declarations and affidavits the very purpose of such measures has failed. There are complaints galore regarding the false information being provided in these affidavits, may it be in case of Jaganmohan Reddy of Andhra Pradesh or Chiranjib Biswal from Odisha.

Some of these may be politically motivated, but despite this aspect no body can deny that the affidavits have become a means to hush up the truth and adorn the list of documents to be attached. The sanctity of the affidavits have long since been lost. Now it is upon the judiciary to restore back the sanctity of the affidavits as that is in the interest of the country as well as the Judiciary itself.

The State and its agencies should immediately initiate action against those who have defrauded the State and the people of Odisha.

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