Gobind Sahu, the prime accused in the sensational murder of a 26-year-old Odisha school teacher who was killed in October 2021, was found dead in his prison cell in a Bolangir jail on Tuesday, prompting opposition leaders to demand a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the death of the accused in a case that embroiled former minister Dibya Shankar Mishra.
Odisha director general of police (DGP) Sunil Bansal ordered a probe by the state’s criminal investigation department into the death of the 53-year-old prison inmate but the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) insisted that the case be referred to CBI and that Sahu’s death will help Dibya Shankar Mishra, a former minister and senior leader of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD). A jail warder who was on duty when Sahu died has been suspended.
The school teacher’s murder had kicked up a political duststorm last year with opposition BJP and Congress accusing Mishra, then minister of state for home, of shielding him. BJP alleged that Sahu was running a sex racket in the school and lured girl students into flesh trade, promising them good marks in exams.
Gobind Sahu, president of the managing committee of Sunshine English medium school, a private school in Mahaling panchayat of Kalahandi district, was arrested on October 19 on charges that he strangled teacher Mamita Meher, on October 8 after she threatened to expose his extra marital affairs. According to the police, he cut her body into pieces, burnt it and buried it in an under-construction stadium near the school.
Police said Sahu was found hanging by a gamchha (towel) in a cell in the Jantabanjhi sub-jail of Bolangir district on Tuesday. Sahu was to travel to court hours before his death. He was taken to a nearby government hospital where the doctors declared him ‘brought dead’.
Sahu’s wife Sushma alleged that her husband was murdered and lodged a complaint at Kegaon police station.
“He was a mentally strong person and cannot die by suicide. If he wanted to die, he would have committed suicide before. Why did he wait for one year to end his life? My husband was in the judicial custody. Those who had kept my husband in jail, they have murdered him. Should not they have protected him inside the cell,” she asked, adding that her husband was framed in the murder case and came home in July this year for her treatment on a 14-day bail granted by the Orissa high court.
Lawyer Devasis Panda, who appeared for Sahu in the high court, said the DNA report of the charred remnants found near the school which were to said to be that of Mamita Meher do not match with the DNA of her parents. Panda moved a criminal revision case in the high court this month attaching a copy of the report.
The Odisha Human Rights Commission has issued notice to the Special Director General of Prisons and Bolangir superintendent of police (SP) to submit their report within 15 days.
Police officers who investigated the teacher’s murder filed the charge sheet against Sahu and his driver in February this year. In September, a court in Kantabanji started the trial.
Odisha BJP women’s wing president Smruti Pattanaik said Sahu’s death was an effort to give clean chit to Dibya Shankar Mishra.
“Probe must be conducted to find out whether he was killed or forced to commit suicide. All the evidence of the murder case has now been buried with the death of Sahu,” said Patnaik.
Congress legislator Santosh Singh Saluja said it looked like murder, “Former minister Dibya Shankar Mishra had promised Sahu’s release, but reneged on his words. A CBI probe can only find out the truth,” said.
BJD leader Amar Satpathy said it was not right to make any comments since the case was sub-judice.
Dibya Shankar Mishra, who has accused the opposition of trying to frame him in the case in the past, has not made any statement on Sahu’s death
Sahu is the second accused in a high profile murder case to have died in mysterious circumstances. Prafulla Biswal, the prime suspect in the murder of BJP leaders Kulamani Baral and Dibya Singh Baral, was found dead near a bridge in Cuttack district in February last year while he was on the run.