Top court cancels Hindu extremist’s bail

Relief as lawmaker convicted of Orissa murders has freedom revoked reporter, Bhubaneswar, India

January 26, 2011

Church leaders in Orissa have welcomed a Supreme Court decision to deny bail to a legislator accused of involvement in 2008 anti-Christian violence.

I am happy the apex court has understood the gravity of Manoj Pradhan’s acts, Archbishop Raphael Cheenath of Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, told today.

The apex court yesterday overturned a decision by Orissa High Court to grant bail to Pradhan, who represents Kandhamal in the state legislative assembly.

Kandhamal, a tribal-dominated district, was the scene of a seven-week long campaign of violence against Christians and Church institutions in 2008.

Pradhan was accused of killing Parihita Nayak, a Christian leader in Kandhamal.

A fast track court had convicted Pradhan on two counts of murder and on three counts of rioting and arson.

The lawmaker is appealing these convictions.

Archbishop Cheenath said the Supreme Court decision will send “the right signal” to lower courts to provide justice for the Kandhamal victims.

“Criminals should not be let loose to terrorize the public,” the Divine Word prelate asserted.

Paul Pradhan, a lawyer and tribal activist, said the bail denial has heartened those trying to get justice for the victims.

“It will have ripple effect. The perpetrators will begin to realize that they cannot get away with crimes and violence,” he added.

The victim’s widow, Kanakharekha, said the decision has given her reason to live and fight for her two children.

Pradhan and other Hindu extremists “cut my husband to pieces” despite my pleas to them to spare him, she said.

Dibakar Parichha, a lawyer who provides legal assistance to victims, said police records have revealed that Pradhan was a field commander of Hindu extremists sent to kill Christians.

“He is a hardcore criminal, who thought he would escape the noose using his connection with politics. This judgment comes as a great relief to us,” he told today.

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