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BJP lawmaker gets seven-year jail for Kandhamal murder

Bhubaneswar, June 29 (Calcutta Tube) A fast track court in Orissa Tuesday sentenced Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Manoj Pradhan to seven years rigorous imprisonment in a murder case during the 2008 communal riots in Kandhamal district.

Judge Sobhan Kumar Das of the fast track court I at Phulbani, the district headquarters of Kandhamal, handed down the sentence to Pradhan and another accused, Prafulla Mallik, for the murder of Pariskhita Digal in Barpenga village Aug 25, 2008, defence lawyer Ajit Patnaik told IANS.

‘The court asked them to pay a fine of Rs.6,000 as well’, he said.

Kandhamal district, about 200 km from here, witnessed widespread violence after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram Aug 23, 2008.

At least 38 people were killed and more than 25,000 Christians were forced to flee their homes after their houses were attacked by rampaging mobs that held Christians responsible for Saraswati’s killing, although the police blamed the Maoists.

Pradhan, who represents G Udaygiri constituency in the state assembly, will appeal against the judgment in a higher court, Patnaik said.

‘His (Pradhan) name was not mentioned in the first information report (FIR) lodged by the victim’s wife at the police station. His name was added by the police later after the incident,’ he said.

Pradhan was arrested in October 2008 on several charges, including murder, rioting and arson. He fought the assembly election in April 2009 from jail and was elected, defeating senior Congress leader Ajaynti Pradhan.

Pradhan faced 14 criminal cases, including six cases of murder. He was acquitted in seven, including a murder case.

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