The Supreme Court has set aside the bail granted to Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Manoj Kumar Pradhan, sentenced to seven years RI for his role in communal riots in Orissa's Kandhamal district where members of the Christian community were targeted.
A bench of justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar said law cannot be applied differently for elected representatives and the common man and the Orissa High Court granted bail merely because the convict was a sitting MLA.
Upholding the appeal filed by the widow of a deceased in the riots, a bench of justices B Sudershan Reddy and S S Nijjar asked the high court to reconsider its decision for granting bail to the Udayagiri constituency MLA.
Setting aside the high court order, the apex court said "the impugned order does not record any reason whatsoever, except vague observation that nature of the allegations have been taken into consideration. The order clearly reflects that the high court was mainly impressed by the fact that the respondent is a sitting MLA.
In the circumstances, we find it difficult to sustain the order. In our considered opinion, the high court ought to have taken the serious nature of allegations, the findings recorded by the trial court and the alleged involvement of the respondent in more than one case for deciding as to whether it is a fit case for suspending the sentence awarded by the trial court and his release on bail during the pendency of the appeal," the apex court said.
"For the aforesaid reasons, the impugned order is set aside and the matter is remitted to the high court for its fresh consideration in accordance with law. The trial court had earlier convicted and sentenced Pradhan to seven years RI for his alleged involvement in the riots. While awarding the sentence, the trial court held the crime committed by the MLA cannot be viewed leniently as it was committed against the society at large.
Pradhan was granted bail by the Orissa high court on July 7, 2010, on the very first day of the hearing, though two others in the case were denied the same. Aggrieved by the relief given by the HC, Kanaka Rekha Naik, whose husband was one of the several persons killed in the 2008 communal riots filed an appeal in the apex court seeking cancellation of the bail.
The apex court said even though two other accused had also applied for bail, the high court chose to grant relief only to the legislator and not to others despite the fact that he was involved in various other cases. "There is no dispute that the respondent (MLA) herein is involved in more than one case of similar nature of rioting etc. This fact has not been taken into consideration at all by the high court. The high court did not even suspend the execution of the sentence awarded by the trial court but directed his release on bail. Kandhamal had witnessed largescale communal riots against members of the Christian community following the killing of VHP leader Laxmanananda Saraswati."