Cracking whip against hostile witnesses, Odisha government has suspended Upendra Bhanja Naik, an assistant engineer, for tendering false evidence during trial on a corruption case registered by Odisha vigilance.
Naik was serving as assistant engineer in rural water supply and sanitation (RWSS) section, Bijepur in Bargarh district.
According to official sources, Naik had been requisitioned as an official witness to witness the detection of a vigilance trap against accused Anand Saraf, the then senior clerk in the office of executive engineer, west electrical division, Bargarh, in 2011.
During that time, Upendra Naik was serving as JE, RWSS Section, Sohela in Bargarh district. Although Naik had witnessed the transaction of bribe, during trial, he resiled from his earlier statements and deposed false evidence to help the accused leading to acquittal in the case.
Hence, as per the recommendation of Odisha vigilance, departmental proceedings were initiated against Naik by the housing and urban development department and finally he was dismissed from service by the competent authority, the sources said.
During detection of bribery cases, Odisha vigilance carries out all proceedings in the presence of official (government) witnesses who explain all aspects of the action taken. Accordingly, memoranda/reports are prepared and official witnesses certify the correctness of the action taken by being a signatory to the reports.
In spite of all such precautions taken, at times, some official witnesses, during trial, turn hostile and resile from their previous statements, thereby helping the accused corrupt public servants to get acquitted from the case. In such cases, strong criminal and departmental actions are being initiated against them, a vigilance official said.
In the last two years, 45 perjury cases have been initiated by Odisha vigilance against complainants/witnesses turning hostile during trial. Similarly, disciplinary authorities have been approached to initiate departmental action against official (government) witnesses for giving false testimony to help the corrupt accused public servants at the time of trial, the official said.
In 2022, the overall conviction rate in Odisha vigilance cases was around 50 percent and the conviction rate in DA cases was a significantly higher 77 percent, ranking Odisha vigilance among top performing states with regard to conviction in DA cases.