BHUBANESWAR: Justice Sarat Chandra Mohapatra, former judge of the Orissa and Allahabad high courts, and chairman of the judicial commission probing the 2008 ethno-communal riots in Kandhamal district, died here on Saturday following brief illness. He was 79.
With a distinguished career in the legal profession, Mohapatra had been a judge of the Orissa High Court from April 1984 to April 1994. Thereafter he was appointed judge of the Allahabad High Court.
A versatile personality, Mohapatra had functioned as chairman of the Orissa Administrative Tribunal.
Known for his impeccable track record in delivery of justice, the legal luminary was appointed Lokpal in 2003 and continued in the position till 2008. He galvanised the institution and brought back confidence of the people in the Lokpal by making them aware of the statutory body. Justice Mohapatra always tried to help out the poor and the needy.
He subsequently headed the judicial commission, instituted by the State Government on September 3 to probe the communal violence that rocked Kandhamal district in the aftermath of the killing of senior VHP leader Lakshmanananda Saraswati in August, 2008. The riots claimed 43 lives.
The commission submitted an interim report on July 1, 2009. The State Government had to extend the tenure of the commission several times.
Justice Mohapatra during his early days of legal practice was Government Advocate for Khanna Commission, which was instituted to find out ‘illegal’ action of former chief minister Biju Patnaik.
Several dignitaries, including Chief Justice of the Orissa High Court V Gopalagowda, visited Justice Mohapatra’s residence here to pay their last respects.