Orissa woman in prison due to mistaken identity


Balasore (Orissa) : In a shocking case of mistaken identity, an innocent woman in Orissa’s Balasore district is serving a sentence of two years’ rigorous imprisonment only because her nick name matched with the name of the real culprit.

Support TwoCircles

The issue came to light after a social activist brought it to the attention of the local administration. The police have admitted their mistake and an inquiry ordered Thursday.

Binapani Mukhi (38), wife of Gourishankar Mukhi of Panchughanta village under Jaleswar police station was arrested on March 8 this year and was subsequently jailed even before she could understand her fault.

Though she pleaded innocence before the police, the cops reportedly didn’t respond to her plea. She has already served six months of her sentence in Balasore district jail and will be released only after the police enquiry is completed.

Social activist and lawyer Sandip Mohanty brought the case to light and said that Binapani was arrested in place of one Minati who is accused in an excise case.

“Minati, a relative of Binapani, was earlier arrested on charges of selling and possessing illegal country made liquor on June 11, 1997. She was released on bail,” Mohanty told reporters here Thursday.

“Three years later, the judicial magistrate’s fast-track court (JMFC) of Jaleswar fixed the date on May 19, 2001 for pronouncing the judgment, but that day Minati didn’t attend the court. The court in turn issued an arrest warrant against Minati besides keeping the judgement in a sealed file,” he said.

Six years after getting the arrest warrant, Jaleswar police surprisingly arrested Binapani in place of Minati and produced her in the court on March 8, this year. JMFC opened the sealed file and pronounced the judgement.

Since then, Gourisankar has been writing letters to the president, prime minister, Orissa governor, chief minister and the human rights commission to free his wife, but to no avail.

“I have been running from pillar to post to get her freed. But none is paying heed towards my grievances. She has lost her mental balance staying inside the bars. Please help us,” Gourishankar, who works as a sweeper at the office of Jaleswar Notified Area Council (NAC), pleaded before the media.

Senior police officers have now admitted the “mistake”. “She was arrested by one Sarojini Singh, a sub-inspector posted at Jaleswar police station. She did it because Minati was absconding and the locals identified Binapani as Minati, which is her nick name,” said Sudarshan Barik, the sub-divisional police officer in Jaleswar.

“Though this error should not happen but it was not made intentionally,” he said.

Balasore superintendent of police P.S. Ranpise Thursday ordered an inquiry into the whole incident. “I can only say something on this issue after the report is submitted to me. Stringent action will be taken against the erring officer if she is found to be guilty,” he added.

Recently, Orissa High Court had ordered the state government to pay a compensation of Rs.800,000 to Pratap Naik, a resident of Bolangir district, who was illegally detained in jail for about eight years.