BJP MLA Manoj Pradhan was sentenced to seven years in jail by a Phulbani court on Tuesday for his involvement in a murder that occurred during the 2008 communal riots in Kandhamal district of Orissa.

Shobhan Kumar Das, judge of the Fast Track Court I, also imposed a fine of Rs. 6,000 on him. The court also convicted his associate, Prafulla Mallik, and handed him the same punishment.

Mr. Pradhan, who represents the G. Udaygiri constituency in Kandhamal district, was immediately taken into custody and lodged in the Phulbani jail. But he vowed to approach the higher court against the verdict.

Prosecution lawyer Bijay Kumar Patnaik said the case related to the murder of Parikhita Digal at Budedipada in the Baripanga panchayat on August 27, 2008. Based on the complaint filed by Kanakrekha Digal, wife of the victim, Mr. Pradhan and Mr. Mallik were charged with murder, rioting, illegal trespass, carrying weapons, and arson.

Pratap Kumar Patra, the other prosecution lawyer for the riot cases, said it was the first case in which the BJP MLA was convicted. Fourteen cases had been filed against him for his involvement in violence, but he was acquitted in six for lack of evidence.

The police arrested 690 persons for their alleged involvement in the riots that broke out after the murder of Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Swami Lakshmanananda Saraswati and four of his associates at his Jalaspata ashram on August 23, 2008. The riots claimed the lives of 38 persons and left thousands homeless. Mr. Pradhan won the election from jail in 2009.