A fast track court acquitted Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Manoj Pradhan, on Thursday, due to lack of evidence in one of the five cases against him during last year's communal violence in Orissa's Kandhamal district.
The judge of the fast track court C R Das acquitted Pradhan and another accused Mantu Nayak on charges of killing one Khageswar Digal, a resident of Shankarakhol area, on September 24, 2008 after he refused to reconvert.
"The court acquitted the BJP MLA and Nayak due to lack of proper evidence against them," said special public prosecutor Pratap Patra.
Pradhan, who is facing five cases of murder and six of arson, has so far been acquitted in three cases. Of the five murder cases, this was the first in which he has been acquitted. Four cases of murder are still pending against him.
Pradhan was arrested in October last year and sent to jail. He, however, won the last assembly election from the Udaygiri segment in Kandhamal from jail. He was released from jail for 15 days in July this year to enable him to take oath as member of the Orissa assembly.
In a separate case, the fast track court acquitted five others accused of setting houses on fire at Tikabali area on August 26, 2008, three days after the killing of Laxamananda Saraswati.
With the acquittal of seven persons today, the total number of persons acquitted has risen to 95 while 24 persons have been convicted so far.