SC awards life term to six in Manjunath murder case

SC awards life term to six in Manjunath murder case

The Supreme Court on Wednesday awarded life term to six men for murdering Indian Oil Corporation manager S Manjunath 10 years ago for exposing corruption and oil adulteration racket in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district.

The case shocked the nation as it related to the killing of a 27-year-old IIM-Lucknow graduate. The victim, who is from Karnataka, had to pay a heavy price for taking on the adulteration mafia.

A bench of Justices S J Mukhopadhaya and N V Ramana found the motive behind the brutal murder of the deceased as “trustworthy” since the convicts bore a grudge against him for pointing out irregularities in a petrol pump.

The bench concurred with the assertion of Gaurav Bhatia, additional advocate-general of Uttar Pradesh, that Manjunath was shot dead because he declined to turn a blind eye to the rampant adulteration and under-weighing of fuel supplies in the district and threatened to expose the scam.

“This is an unfortunate case where an officer of the IOC was brutally murdered by the accused for honestly carrying out his duties. This incident has shaken confidence of thousands of aspiring officers,” he contended.

The bench rejected the appeals filed by the convicts against the 2009 verdict of the Allahabad High Court. The high court had convicted six men, including owner of M/s Mittal Automobiles Pawan Kumar alias Monu Mittal, and acquitted two others–Rajiv Awasthi and Harish Misra–for want of evidence.

Manjunath was shot dead on November 19, 2005, as he reached the petrol pump to collect samples of adulterated petrol being sold from the outlet.

The prosecution claimed that Manjunath had threatened to cancel the licence of the petrol pump. He had suspended sale and supply to the outlet in September 2005 after finding irregularities, which was restored in October 2005.

The victim, suspecting some irregularities, inspected the pump again on November 19, 2005. His bullet-riddled body was later recovered from a car in Maholi area in the neighbouring Sitapur district the next day.

In their defence, the convicts claimed that there was no eye-witness to the incident and that the circumstantial evidence was not strong enough to secure their conviction.

The court, however, pointed out that the confessional statements had led to the arrests of two co-accused as well as recovery of various incriminating material, including pistols, cartridges, bullets and blood-stained articles.

The trial court had in 2007 convicted all the eight accused finding the murder as “pre-determined and planned.” Mittal was sentenced to death, while the other seven were sentenced to life term.

The high court commuted the death sentence of Mittal to a life term and also acquitted Awasthi and Misra.

The life sentences awarded to five other accused, Devesh Agnihotri, Rakesh Anand, Vivek Sharma, Shivesh Giri and Rajesh Sharma, were upheld.

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