A court in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada district has acquitted tribal rights activist Soni Sori and three others in a sedition case registered in 2011, PTI reported on Wednesday.
The three others who have been acquitted are Sori’s nephew and activist Lingaram Kodopi, construction contractor BK Lala and a former official at business conglomerate Essar, DVCS Varma.
Special Judge (National Investigation Agency Act) Vinod Kumar Dewangan passed the judgement on Monday, and the verdict was made available on Tuesday.
The police had alleged that Sori and Kodopi acted as conduits for the payment of money to Maoists from Essar. The conglomerate used to pay the money in lieu of protection from Maoists, the police had alleged.
According to the police, Kodopi and Lala were arrested from a market in Dantewada’s Palnar village with Rs 15 lakh in cash. The money was allegedly meant to be paid to Maoists. Sori had been arrested on October 4, 2011. The Supreme Court had granted her bail in November 2013.
The tribal rights activist and three others were booked under Indian Penal Code sections 124(A) (sedition), 121 (waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against government of India), 120B (criminal conspiracy), and provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act.
On Monday, the National Investigation Agency court observed that several of the prosecution’s witnesses gave contradictory statements in the case, The Indian Express reported.
“The prosecution has not been able to prove the charges against the accused beyond any objectionable doubt,” the order stated.
Sori said that with this judgement, she has been acquitted in all six cases that had been filed against her during the tenure of the Bharatiya Janata Party government in the state, according to PTI. Sori despite getting justice, she was not happy.
“Who will bring back my dignity and 11 years of my life lost in fighting against false charges?” she said. “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.”
Sori said that she had to fight for more than a decade to prove her innocence. “I was a school teacher...these false cases ruined my life, my dignity, and my family had to suffer,” she said.
After Sori got bail in 2013, she had alleged of being tortured in police custody.
Several prominent human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, had called for the release of the activist, as well as of Kodopi. Amnesty International had said that they had been arrested on false allegations as they had criticised alleged human rights violations by security forces in Chhattisgarh.