A fast-track court in Bhubaneswar sentenced Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Manoj Pradhan to seven years of rigorous imprisonment on Tuesday for his role in the 2008 communal riots in Orissa’s Kandhamal district that left 38 persons dead and thousands homeless.
The 30-year-old legislator from G. Udaygiri assembly seat in Kandhamal district, 250 km from the state capital, was taken to a jail hours after the court pronounced the quantum of punishment.
Along with Pradhan, the court convicted another accused, Prafulla Mallik, of rioting and causing grievous hurt by a dangerous weapon. Mallik was also sentenced to seven years in jail. The court also ordered both men to pay a fine of Rs 6,000 each, failing which they would be handed another term of six months each.
“I have the highest regard for the judiciary. We will appeal against the verdict in the higher court,” Pradhan said.
The court had earlier absolved him in 11 riot-related cases. He has five more cases pending against him.
On Monday, the fast track court had convicted another 15 persons in cases of arson. With this, 76 persons have been convicted so far in 39 cases relating to the Kandhamal riots.
The murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his aides at his ashram had triggered the Kandhamal riots in August 2008.
Pradhan was reportedly a close disciple of Saraswati. He was arrested in October 2008 on several charges, including murder, rioting and arson.
He was elected MLA in elections held last year. He fought the polls from behind bars. He was subsequently granted bail by the high court.
(With agency inputs)