Bhubaneswar : The Orissa High Court Friday granted bail for a second time to a BJP legislator who was convicted for a murder in the 2008 anti-Christian riots in Kandhamal district, a lawyer said.
The Orissa High Court at Cuttack, about 26 km from here, granted bail to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislator Manoj Kumar Pradhan on condition that he will not travel out of the country without permission, his lawyer Sarbeswar Behera told IANS.
While granting the bail, the court also directed that he will not try to influence witnesses in other riot cases, he said.
A fast track court June last year awarded Pradhan seven years of rigorous imprisonment. Pradhan appealed against the sentence in the high court and moved for bail. The high court granted him bail July 7 last year.
Kanak Rekha Naik, the widow of the man who was killed and burnt in the riots, then moved the apex court challenging the high court’s grant of to Pradhan.
The Supreme Court in January this year set aside the high court bail order, ruling that a public representative could not be treated differently. The apex court had, however, remanded the matter to the high court for re-hearing, Behera said.
Pradhan surrendered to a fast track court in Kandhamal district March 9 and was sent to jail.
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 mobs that held Christians responsible for the Swami’s killing, although the police blamed the Maoists.
Pradhan, who faced 12 cases for his involvement in the riots, was convicted in two for murder and acquitted in over half a dozen relating to arson and rioting. He was arrested in October 2008. He fought the assembly elections in April 2009 from jail and defeated senior Congress leader Ajaynti Pradhan.
The government has set up two fast track courts in the district to try criminal cases related to the communal riots.