Naveen Patnaik
Naveen PatnaikREUTERS/Jayanta Shaw

The attempt to free Biju Janata Dal (BJD) MLA Jhina Hikaka from the captivity of the Maoists has received a huge setback with the Supreme Court asking the Odisha government to provide the details of the steps it has taken to solve the hostage crisis.

The Supreme Court issued a notice to state government after retired Major General Gangdeep Bakshi moved the court on Wednesday to stop the state government from releasing the Maoists prisoners in exchange for Jhina Hikaka. The apex court also told Bakshi that one can't plead for hearing at the eleventh hour.

Gangdeep Bakshi filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court arguing that freeing the Maoists prisoners would affect the morale of the armed forces, as they had put their lives at risk to capture the rebels. He also pleaded that Supreme Court's guidelines framed during the abduction of South India superstar Dr. Rajkumar be followed in Odisha hostage crisis too.

The Odisha government had earlier freed seven Naxals for the release of two Italian tourists. It has also agreed to free 23 prisoners to secure the release of Hikaka but the Maoists rejected the swap proposal.

Stepping up efforts to secure the release of Hikaka, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik attended a high-level meeting with senior police officers and administration officials on Friday. He also met Hikaka's family members including his mother, wife Kausaliya and children, and assured them that the government would do its best for his release.

Hikaka's wife Kausaliya had earlier appealed to the government to insure the safe release of her husband. She also requested the Maoists to free her husband.

Meanwhile, the deadline set by the Maoists belonging to Andhra Odisha Border Special Zonal Committee (AOBSZC) for the release of Hikaka ended on Wednesday. They demanded the release of 29 prisoners by 5.00 pm on April 18 for the release of the MLA, who was abducted on March 24 in Koraput district. However, they excluded dreaded Naxal Chenda Bhusanam alias Ghasi in the new demand list.

The Maoists promised to release the MLA in the presence of his wife and the prisoners' lawyer Nihar Ranjan Patnaik if the Odisha government meets their demand.