A local court on Tuesday sentenced BJP MLA Manoj Pradhan to seven years rigorous imprisonment for his role in the 2008 Kandhamal communal riots.
The judgement was pronounced by fast track court-I judge S K Das while disposing of a case relating to murder of Parikhita Digal, a Christian from Budedi village under Raikia police station limit on August 27, 2008. Pradhan was also accused of setting on fire houses of people belonging to the minority community.
A case was registered against Pradhan under sections 147 (rioting), 148 (rioting with deadly weapon), 149 (unlawful assembly), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence), 302 (murder), 341 (wrongfully restraining someone), 342 (wrongful confinement) and 436 (mischief by fire or explosive substance with intent to destroy house etc) of IPC.
"I have the highest regard for the judiciary. We will appeal against the verdict in the higher court," Pradhan, BJP MLA from G Udaygiri, told PTI over phone. The court convicted another person, Prafulla Mallick in the case and sentenced him too to seven years rigorous imprisonment. Both Pradhan and Mallick were ordered to pay a fine of Rs 6,000 each.
Pradhan, earlier acquitted in seven cases relating to the Kandhamal riots, is still being tried in seven other cases including three relating to murder.
MLA from G Udaygiri, he was the lone BJP candidate to make it in the 2009 Assembly polls from Kandhamal district. He contested from inside the jail, where he was lodged after being arrested from Berhampur in December 2008. He was granted bail in December 2009.
Pradhan was one of the close disciples of VHP leader Swami Laxamananda Saraswati, whose killing on August 23, 2008, had sparked off large scale violence in Kandhamal and other parts of Orissa. About 38 people were killed and hundreds of houses burnt down in the violence that continued for about two months. PTI