Chhattisgarh: Special court acquits tribal activist Soni Sori, 3 others in Naxal payoff case

Raipur, Mar 16 (PTI) A special court at Dantewada in Chhattisgarh has acquitted tribal activist Soni Sori and three others in a case lodged against them in 2011 for alleged transfer of ‘protection money’ to Naxals.

Special Judge (National Investigation Agency Act) Vinod Kumar Dewangan passed the order on Monday, and a copy of it was made available on Tuesday.

Besides Sori, the court also acquitted her activist nephew Lingaram Kodopi, construction contractor B.K. Lala and the then Essar company official D.V.C.S. Verma, citing that the prosecution had not been successful in proving the charges levelled against the accused beyond reasonable doubt, their lawyer Kshitij Dubey said on Wednesday.

Therefore, in the absence of corroborative evidence, the accused are acquitted, the court said in its 76-page order.

Sori and Kodopi were arrested on charges of acting as Maoist conduits who had allegedly received ‘protection money’ for the rebels from the company.

They were booked under Sections 124A (sedition), 121 (waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against Government of India) and 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, as well as provisions of the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act.

According to police, Kodopi and Lala, who was then a building contractor with the Essar Steel Ltd, were nabbed from a weekly market at Palnar village in Dantewada district on September 9, 2011 with Rs 15 lakh in cash, which was allegedly meant to be paid to Maoists.Police had claimed that Sori, then serving as a government school teacher, was also associated with Kodopi. She was arrested on October 4, 2011 from New Delhi.

Meanwhile, reacting to the court judgement, Sori said with this order, she has been acquitted in all six cases filed against her during the previous Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state.

Talking to PTI over phone on Wednesday, Sori, who hails from Dantewada and has been actively raising issues related to tribal rights in the Maoist-hit Bastar region, said though she has got justice, she is not at all happy.

“I was implicated in false cases. I had to fight for over a decade to prove myself innocent. I was a school teacher…these false cases ruined my life, my dignity, and my family had to suffer”, she said.

“Who will bring back my dignity and 11 years of my life lost in fighting against false charges? Can the state government or the Centre return it? It is not only about Soni Sori, as several tribals of Bastar region have been bearing the brunt of such false cases”, she claimed.