BJP MLA gets 7-year jail in Kandhamal riots case

Phulbani (Orissa): A sitting BJP MLA Manoj Kumar Pradhan was on Tuesday sentenced to seven years imprisonment and sent to jail by a fast track court for his role in a case of murder during communal riots in Orissa's Kandhamal district in 2008.

36-year-old Pradhan was taken to a jail here within hours of fast track court-I judge S K Das convicting him and pronouncing the quantum of punishment for him and another convict, Prafulla Mallick and ordering them to pay a fine of Rs 6000 each. Mallick was also awarded seven years jail term.

"The court found Pradhan guilty under section 326 (voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means), 147 (rioting) and 149 (unlawful assembly) of IPC," said Pradhan's lawyer Ramesh Mohanty.

Pradhan was accused of being involved in the killing of a Christian Parikhita Digal from Budedi village on August 27, 2008 and the police had registered a case against Pradhan under different sections of the IPC including 302 (murder).

But, the court found the MLA guilty under section 326, 147 and 149 of IPC, the lawyer said.

Pradhan's other lawyer Ajit Kumar Patnaik said the MLA's name did not figure in the original FIR filed by the victim's wife Kanaka Rekha Naik at Raikia police station. "His name was added during hearing of the case."

Pradhan, who represents the communally sensitive G Udayagiri assembly constituency, said he will appeal against the verdict in the Orissa High Court.

"I have the highest regard for the judiciary. We will appeal against the verdict in the higher court," he told agency on phone before being sent to jail.

Pradhan, earlier acquitted in seven cases relating to the Kandhamal riots, is still being tried in seven other cases including three relating to murder.

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 and has since been attending assembly proceedings.

Pradhan was a close disciple 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.

38 people were killed and hundreds of houses burnt down in the violence that raged for about two months.