Former Maoist leader Sabyasachi Panda, alleged to be involved in high-profile cases such as the murder of Swami Lakshmanananda and the abduction of Italian tourists, was on Saturday awarded life imprisonment by a lower court in Ganjam.
In 2008, Swami Lakshmanananda, a prominent seer, was gunned down in Kandhamal district in an attack by suspected Maoists in the area. Subsequently, Kandhamal saw violence that left 39 Christians dead and 395 churches vandalised. Four years later, two Italians were abducted by Maoists in Kandhamal district and were later freed after the state government agreed to release of some prisoners.
The government lawyer arguing Panda’s case said that Panda was arrested in 2014 and was found to possess over Rs 2 lakh in cash, 800 grams of gold, and several SIM cards.
“He had engaged in a scuffle with the police that led to injuries to the personnel. The prosecution presented a series of witnesses on which the verdict was based,” said the prosecutor.
Panda’s counsel Dipak Pattanayak stated that his client had been charged with many cases after his arrest. “He was acquitted in 52 cases. In this particular case, Panda was charged with IPC 121, 121(A), 124, 353 and provisions under the Arms Act and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
“The same court discharged him from UAPA and later from IPC 124. He received life imprisonment under 121,” he said. IPC 121 states, “Whoever wages war against the Government of India, or attempts to wage such war, or abets the waging of such war, shall be punished with death, or imprisonment for life and shall also be liable to fine.”
Pattanayak added, “Under the law, a thousand criminals may escape, but no innocent person should be punished. We will approach the higher courts.”