2008 Kandhamal riots: BJP MLA sentenced to 7 years in jail

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Bhubaneswar:  A sitting BJP MLA Manoj Pradhan was on Tuesday sentenced to seven years in jail by a fast track court in a case of murder during the 2008 communal riots in Kandhamal in Orissa.

Fast track court-I judge S K Das awarded the seven year rigorous imprisonment to Pradhan after convicting him for his role in the murder of Parikhita Digal, a Christian from Budedi village under Raikia police station limit on August 27, 2008.

Pradhan, who represents the communally sensitive G Udayagiri assembly constituency in Kandhamal, was also accused of setting on fire houses of people belonging to the minority community and inciting communal violence.

Pradhan, currently on bail, said he will appeal against the verdict which is likely to come as an embarassment to the BJP.

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 houses etc) of IPC.

"I have the highest regard for the judiciary. We will appeal against the verdict in the higher court," Pradhan told PTI over phone.

The court convicted another person Prafulla Mallick in the murder case and also sentenced him to seven-year rigorous imprisonment.

Both Pradhan and Mallick were also 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.

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 and has since been attending assembly proceedings.

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 raged for about two months.

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