BHUBANESWAR: In a significant judgment, Rayagada District and Sessions Court on Tuesday sentenced former school inspector Netrananda Dandasena to life imprisonment in the sensational Itishree Pradhan murder case.
Dandasena, the lone accused in the case which was being investigated by the Crime Branch of State Police, was found guilty for murder, abetment and criminal conspiracy. District Judge Janab Mohammed Ajmal pronounced the verdict in an open court.
Itishree, a non-formal teacher with the Upper Primary School at Tikri in Rayagada, was set on fire by unidentified miscreants on school premises on October 27, 2013. She succumbed to the injuries at a private hospital in Vishakhapatnam on November 1.
The case had assumed significance since the lady teacher had accused Dandasena, the then Inspector of Schools, of sexual harassment. When she lodged an FIR with police, she came under intense pressure from the school inspector to withdraw her case. Following Itishree’s death, the State Government asked the Crime Branch to take up investigation on the same day. Later, CBI also took up probe into the matter.
The Crime Branch also roped in Rajendra Sahu as special public prosecutor to expedite the case. The trial which started in November 2014 saw 36 witnesses presented by the prosecution while the defence produced four. Four of Itishree’s dying declarations, with her thumb impression, were also presented as evidence before the court. She had stated that Dandasena was mounting pressure on her to withdraw the cases.
Itishree had also stated that she could not recognise the person who poured kerosene and set her on fire on October 27, but the miscreant had told her that she was paying for not withdrawing the charges against the school inspector.
Special DG of Crime Branch Bijay Sharma said, the four dying declarations of the victim, which were also videographed, were major evidence in the case.
“During the 18-month trial, we produced as many as 36 witnesses from the prosecution side,” he told mediapersons here.
Sharma said, the investigation showed that Dandasena was trying to coerce Itishree to withdraw the cases and when he failed, he used an associate to eliminate her.
The case which had gone on to grab national headlines was taken over by CBI following a Supreme Court order based on a petition filed by Sudipta Lenka, a Bengaluru-based law graduate. CB handed over the case to national agency to identify and trace the person who set Itishree on fire. The investigation is still continuing.