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MLA sentenced to life for mob murder

Calcutta, July 20: Calcutta High Court today awarded life imprisonment to SUCI legislator Probodh Purkait for his alleged involvement in the murder of two Congress supporters at Kultali in South 24-Parganas in 1985.

'This is the first time in the history of the state Assembly that a sitting MLA has been sentenced to life imprisonment,' said Speaker Hasim Abdul Halim.

Hours after the judgment, he said Purkait's membership would be terminated immediately. 'You may say that he is no longer a member of this House. But officially, I will make the announcement after receiving the court order.'

A division bench of the high court today asked Purkait and his four associates to surrender before the court within a month.

On January 15, 1985, armed SUCI supporters, allegedly including Purkait, attacked the houses of Congress workers in Radhaballavpur under Kultali police station, about 100 km from Calcutta.

Congress supporters Abdur Rahaman Molla and Abdur Rahaman Laskar were killed in a clash that followed.

The South 24-Parganas police had started a criminal case on the basis of an FIR lodged by residents of Radhaballavpur. On November 12, 1997, the Alipore sessions court, which held the trial, convicted six persons and acquitted 32, including Purkait.

The convicted persons were sentenced to life. They moved an appeal in Calcutta High Court challenging the verdict and at the same time, the state government submitted a petition demanding conviction of the 32 acquitted. The high court heard the appeals simultaneously.

Public prosecutor Kazi Safiullah told the court that nine persons, including Purkait's niece, had told the sessions court that the MLA was involved in the murder.

Lawyers Dilip Dutta and Milan Mukherjee, appearing for the SUCI, claimed that the state government was trying to implicate Purkait and others with a political motive.

The court today also upheld the decision of the Alipore court sentencing the six SUCI members to life imprisonment. The bench however, acquitted 28 others named in the FIR. Three of them are dead.

SUCI state secretary Provas Ghosh said the party would challenge today's order in the Supreme Court.

The MLA was given the news of his sentence when he stepped out of the Assembly this morning. Purkait had staged a walkout to protest yesterday's police action on SUCI workers, who were demonstrating against the hike in power tariff.

'I don't know anything about the judgment. I will not say anything about it. It is my party which will react to this,' Purkait told reporters before leaving the House in a huff.

Halim said he would have to inform the Election Commission about Purkait's termination 'since the Kultali Assembly seat will fall vacant'.

Before Purkait, the Speaker said, Shyamadas Banerjee of the Congress had lost his Assembly seat as he had submitted a forged medical bill.

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