Although it has been one year since this happened, I have come to know of this now, thanks to NDTV. An IIM Lucknow alumnus, Shanmugam Manjunath, was murdered in November, 2005 for trying to prevent a petrol pump in Lakhimpur Kheri (UP,India) from selling adulterated fuel to consumers. He graduated in 2003, with the typical values of an IIM Graduate, visions of buliding a better India, through honesty, diligence, and inherent goodness of human soul. Alas, what did he get as a reward for his efforts? Premature death, and mourning old parents!
It has been an year, yet there is no sign of justice, his murderers are yet to be punished. I feel somehow the IIMs are responsible for this, for not teaching him how the real India works, and how you have to compromise with your morals in this country to survive. Not to mention the utter lawlessness prevailing in states (do they deserve to be called so??) like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. No one seems to be bothered about the brightest youngsters of India, and I will not be surprised if in 2-3 years, all IIM graduates run to multinatonals, and shun India.
Here is the entire case update.
UPDATE, Oct 6-7 hearing get adjourned
As neither the Investigating Officer (IO) nor another Sub Inspector could be produced on the 6th, the Judge expressed his annoyance and gave us dates of 7th and 8th November only.
The IO had to attend another hearing on the 6th in Lucknow High Court where the IG and SSP had to depose. We made about 10 phone calls to ensure that he left at least on the 6th to be there for the 7th at Khiri. The Police bosses have been very co-operative in this regard.
The other SI was not released as, per the DIG of that range, he was needed for the VP Singh rally on that day. Annoyed at neither the SI nor the IO being there on 6th – though the Public Prosecutor informed the Judge of the circumstances and that the IO would reach that night in time for the next day’s hearing – the Judge gave hearing dates a month later.
It’s difficult to continue hope and motivation at such unnecessary setbacks and delays. It’s difficult to convey these to Manju’s parents. It’s astonishing that such huge effort – much of which we do not and cannot put up on public fora – is required for one relatively ‘open and shut’ case. What of the 99.99% other cases who do not have the IIM community’s enormous support??
UPDATE, Sep 25th – One of the accused gets bail
One of the accused, Harish Misra, has been granted bail by the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court. While he is not one of the main accused – he was a pump employee and charged with destroying evidence – there are several surprising issues with his being granted bail:
- Our lawyer, I.B. Singh, an eminent high court lawyer, is on file to be called by the Govt. Public Prosecutor if any of the 8 accused’ bail pleas come up for hearing. He was not called.
- Earlier, another accused, Rajesh Verma’s bail appeal on the same grounds had been successfully opposed by I.B. Singh and turned down.
- The case is far advanced, with 19 witnesses produced and just 2-3 more to go. At this stage, granting bail is not easily justifiable
We have taken immediate action. An appeal to cancel bail is being filed in the Supreme Court by our lawyer there – Ms. Kamini Jaiswal
UPDATE – FOURTH TRIAL DATES 21-22 SEP
These hearings were tense and fraught with drama. They wereattended by various IIM alumni – S. Ramakrishnan, Head, Branch Banking North India – HDFC bank, IIMC ‘93,Reena Yadav- S. Ramakrishnan’s wife, Akhil Krishna – SAP Labs, IIML 2003;Sushant Pote and Sanjeev , IIML PGP 2 students and Anjali Mullatti, Trustee – MST, IIML ‘93; and Day two, two more IIML PGP2s attended.
- An important witness , RK Zutshi , Manjunath’s erstwhile boss at IOC was presented in court. Manjunath had a long telephone conversation with Zutshi on November 19th – the day of his murder. Manjunath was , Zutshi said , headed to inspect a few pumps suspected of adulteration; one of which was the Mittal Automobile petrol pump
- As per an earlier inspection conducted by Manjunath on 13th September 2005,a fine of Rs.75000/- was imposed and paid by the Mittal petrol pump. As a result the pump had remained closed for a month.If adulteration had been detected again, the dealership would have been terminated.
- Zutshi also confirmed the finding of 3 bullet cartridges from the diesel tank at the pump .
- On the second day of hearing i.e. 22nd Sep, during cross-examination of Mr. Zutshi, the defence counsel claimed that it was because of Manju’s intervention that a pump in Monu’s sister’s name was established at Sisokand. Zutshi’s answers proved these claims false as Manju had only recommended that a pump should be set up in the area and the same was set up at his (Zutshi’s) orders
- One witness turned hostile , making it a total of 4 thus far. A local journalist (’Amar Ujala’ publication) who had earlier submitted in writing that Monu had indeed called him, among 2 others, for help after the crime,claimed to have done so under police pressure. This witness fumbled under cross-examination by prosecution after he was declared hostile;and was not critical to the case, maintains our lawyer, Mr.I B Singh who was present through the proceedings.
- Two police men ,a constable Kaushik Prasad and a sub-inspector TN Tripathi were also examined.The latter had conducted the enquiry against Monu(main accused) and Rajesh Verma(an accomplice)as both these men were found armed without carrying a license which is mandatory as per law
- Zutshi’s statements bring in a lot of much required hope to the prosecution as they help establish the immediate motive of murder and prove the strength of our case
For more details read the news articles. Next hearing dates slotted for 6-7 Oct (fri-sat)
UPDATE – THIRD TRIAL DATES 1-2 SEP
- 3 witnesses produced by prosecution – (a)the person who actually went into the diesel tank and recovered the cartridges, with IOC and police as witnesses (b) the doctor who conducted the post-mortem examination and (c) a constable – small role, who transported papers from local to Gola main police station.
- The first person, Babu Khan, was obviously important and held strong and consistent during cross examination. The recovery of the cartridges from the Mittal petrol pump diesel holding tank – which is locked and only Monu had the key – is a key piece of evidence. The other two were routine and hardly cross-examined.
- Day two saw havaldar Krishna Mohan Mishra being produced. He was present at most of the arrests and recovery of Manju’s cell phone,and other items. Defence raised queries such as: (a)The inspector didn’t book Rajesh etc., when they were found on the Alto with no valid papers of the vehicle, under the Motor Vehicle Act.(b) Why any member of the public wasn’t made a witness to the arrest near the railway station., and so on. Nothing major.
With this, 15 witnesses have been produced. One turned hostile. A key witness it to be produced on next dates – Sep 21-22 . He was Manju’s boss. There is herculean effort going on to ensure co-operation. We cannot reveal more in an open forum.
JOIN HANDS. WISH.STORM THE HEAVENS; WE WILL KNOW SOON IF JUSTICE WINS.
UPDATE – AUG 4-5 & 18-19 DATES POSTPONED
The third set of trial dates scheduled for Aug 4-5 were postponed. Due to a lawyer strike, courts were closed on those dates; the next set of dates scheduled for August 18-19 got postponed as well. We spoke to five newspaper editors and requested them to cover the strike pointing out the futility and cost of courts not working. Courts resumed and the next dates are scheduled for Sep 1-2 2006. A group of volunteers from IIM Lucknow will be attending.
UPDATE – SECOND TRIAL DATES, 6-7 JULY 2006
- Media informed, including editor of leading Hindi newspaper.
- Group of IIML student volunteers formed; they will attend the hearings in groups by rotation, ensuring continued, strong and broad-based attention on the case. IIML campus is 2 hours from Lakhimpur Khiri
- Trustee also travels to Khiri.
- A couple living next to the petrol pump, who were to be produced during the last hearings (refer ‘Day Three’ below), are declared hostile by us (prosecution team). They retract statement made before police that they heard shots on NOv. 19th night. Declaring them hostile enables us to cross examine them. But they stick to their retraction.
Given the nature of the case and the accused, we are not surprised. We have had indications. It illustrates the uphill fight ahead.
- For the IIML students, it is an eye-opener; far removed from the ‘case discussion CP’ world on campus. They are shaken, but ‘happy they have come’
- Day two sees three more prosecution witnesses produced and cross-examined; part of the poice team who did the ‘panchnama’. Also the hotel manager where Manjunath stayed the previous night, provides hotel records and testifies. This proves Manju was indeed at Gola on the 19th.
- The case is moving,11 witnesses produced and cross examined so far. But unfortunately the next set of dates we get are again a month away – 4th, 5th August. At least we’re getting 2 days in a row. IIML students handed over a letter to the Judge from all IIM Directors, requesting for expedition of the case. They were also introduced to the Judge.
Bail situation: We are often asked about this. All eight accused are, and have been in custody. Two bail applications were rejected at the Sessions Court level. The bail appeal of one of them – Rajesh Verma, whose gun was used in the murder – came to the High Court. We filed an application opposing it and bail was rejected. One of the reasons was that the case is moving. Else a common plea is that nothing is happening in the case and accused are unneccessarily being kept in custody.
Now, another – and a key – bail appeal has come up in the High Court. This is of Devesh Agnihotri, main co-accused along with Pawan Kumar Mittal. Our lawyer is on watch for the date.
Read the news links for media coverage of the case. Write in to us to attend the hearings.
UPDATE – FIRST TRIAL DATES, 5-7 JUNE 2006
- Media informed; press note released.Much preliminary preparation done by the prosecution team.Mr. IB – our lawyer – has been completely committed, involved and done star quality work. He is well known with a strong and good reputation, even amongst the media.
- Trustees met with HT editor in Lucknow and reached Lakhimpur Khiri on 5th morning.
- Big crowds; 5-6 TV channels, plus TOI, IE and HT reporters apart from local press.
Our endeavour – no individual names, photographs or quotes. Press note only, which talks of the Trust as a group.
- All eight accused brought in with larger police contingent as they got violent with the press and raised slogans of ‘bandhi union zindabad’
- Hearing started at 12.30 p.m, and this was the only case heard till court closed.
Two policemen – who caught two of the accused with the body – gave evidence and were cross examined.
- There are seven defence lawyers, as except for two of the accused, every one else has his own lawyer – and each is given an opportunity to cross examine.
- That ended Day One. Trustees returned to Lucknow and thence back – on Day Two, Kamini Jaiswal, the noted Supreme Court lawyer, with a Trust volunteer (also a friend and batchmate of Manju’s) – took over.
- Ms. Jaiswal’s presence also created a big impact. The volunteer’s presence showed that more people are involved, and he was asked for quotes on Manju.
- Day Two was the start of examination of the non-state witnesses: Manju’s landlord, and a neighbouring petrol pump owner.
- All three gave proper and relevant evidence. This was important.They were confident during the intensive cross examination.
- Ms. Jaiswal and Mr. IB left after discussing the strategy for Day Three.
- Day Three saw the proceedings being adjourned. The witnesses could not be produced due to unavoidable reasons.
- The Judge is proceeding on vacation and has given us next dates only of 6-7 July
- We have sent letters requesting daily hearings to The Hon’ble Sessions Judge, The Hon’ble Chief Justice, Allahabad High Court, and The Hon’ble CJ, Supreme Court.
- If necessary we will meet the CJs to push this.
Days of mixed feelings – relief, optimism, and much sadness. It is distressing to see the accused; to hear the graphic details; see the photographs. The resolve gets reinforced.. Quote from one of the Trust attendees: “I am happy that I came. I can’t express the way I am feeling.”
PLEASE JOIN US AND ATTEND THE HEARINGS. NEXT DATES 6-& JULY. EMAIL US. THIS WILL HELP PRESENT A SHOW OF STRENGTH.ALL OF YOU.
For news items on the hearings, read the News Items and Articles.
Important Update: May 20th 2006
- The order for framing of charges against all eight accused was passed at Lakhimpur Khiri Sessions Court on 19th May, 2006.
- Two prior dates – 29th April and 8th May – had passed because the accused said they did not have lawyers and the Judge was travelling, respectively. The charges were heard on 11th and 12th May, with the Judge passing the order on 19th May.
- Press coverage, especially in the Lucknow editions, has been extensive with each of the above mentioned dates seeing articles in the Indian Express and Times of India.
- All eight accused have pleaded ‘not guilty’: therefore the trial now begins. Dates for trial have been given on 5th, 6th and 7th June.
- Our lawyer and the Public Prosecutor tell us that usually, trial dates are given 1-2 months after framing of charges, and that only a date at a time. It is good that we have got dates just 2 weeks away, and 3 days at a stretch.
Please keep visiting the site and join hands with us: the real battle now starts.
The charged & the charges (from the Indian Express, 19th May 2006)
• Pawan Kumar Mittal alias Monu, prime accused, son of pump owner: directed Devesh Agnihotri to kill Manjunath.
• Devesh Agnihotri, Monu’s friend: Shot Manjunath at the behest of Monu Mittal.
• Sanjay Awasthi and Harish, pump employees: Trapped Manjunath, destroyed evidence.
• Rakesh Kumar (Monu’s driver) and Vivek Sharma, employee: Arrested with Manjunath’s body in Sitapur district.
• Lalla Giri, employee: Tried to destroy evidence.
• Rajesh Verma, friend: Sheltered the accused, had weapon.
Update: May 1st 2006
Charges were not framed on 29th April – the accused asked for more time as they have not engaged legal counsel (a delaying tactic). The judge has given them a final extension till 8th May 2006. The presence of Indian Express and TOI reporters during the 29th April adjournment provided timely pressure. Both papers published articles (See section “News Items and Articles”)
Current Status: April 25th 2006
Following a visit by the trustees to Lakhimpur Khiri Sessions Court and a meeting with the SP, the current update is:
1. Two trustees, our lawyer, his assistants, and IOC law manager visited Lakhimpur Khiri Sessions Court.
2. The date for ‘framing of charges’ (stage prior to start of trial) is on 29th April 2006.
3. Public Prosecutor (PP)has agreed to have our lawyer as part of the prosecution team. With this, we now have direct representation. We have now got all the documents related to the case and our lawyer – a man of quality and integrity – is working to push the PP and IOC lawyer to join him in analysis and decision of how the case should be fought.
4. Met with the SP, Zaqi Ahmed, an extremely nice and dedicated IPS officer; as also the Investigating Officer (IO). The IO has done a painstaking job of the investigation. A meeting is scheduled with him and our lawyer and the PP to analyse any gaps in the chargesheet and how they can be filled.
5. Indian Express and TOI editors met and updated – ongoing relationship till the end; articles in both (national editions) will come out before the 29th April date.
Status – As of April 10th , 2006
1. Police Investigation is complete and the Chargesheet was filed on Feb 20th,2006.
2. All the accused are in custody. The accused are, in the order of accused –
Monu Mittal, Sanjay Awasti, Devesh Agnihotri, Vivek Sharma, Lalla, Harish, Rakesh Kumar, Rajesh Verma
Of these, Vivek Sharma and Rakesh were arrested with the body after the police intercepted their car. Rakesh was a filling attendant at the Mittal petrol pump and Vivek was a driver. Sanjay and Devesh are business partners of the main accused, Monu Mittal.
3. The charge-sheet was reviewed by the Chief Judicial Magistrate. He has now committed it to the Lakhimpur Sessions Court.
4. Next comes the stage of ‘framing the charges’, wherein the accused will have a chance to dispute the charges. The case will thereafter start trial.
5. A Public Prosecutor has been appointed by the Govt. IOCL , an interested party has also appointed their own counsel to assist in the case. Both are based in Lakhimpur Khiri.
Our Efforts on the Case, and how you can help –
Our Legal Team
We have lawyers at Delhi, Lucknow and Lakhimpur. Noted senior Supreme Court advocate Kamini Jaiswal, based in Delhi, has committed her whole-hearted support and assistance. She is currently in an advisory capacity. Ms. Jaiswal is well known for her integrity and work in PILs. Mr. Indra Bhushan Singh, a prominent lawyer of Lucknow is driving the case. He has acted as Special Public Prosecutor for most of the narcotics cases in UP; has acted to secure the release of women imprisoned for over 20 years and forgotten by everybody; and has shown immense commitment and involvement with the case. Mr. I.B. Singh has appointed an assistant lawyer at Lakhimpur Khiri.
The media pressure continues. We are in touch with the editor of the Indian Express – Lucknow edition – the last article was on Mar 19th, where the url of the trust was also mentioned. (http://www.indianexpress.com/sunday/story/682.html). Indian Express and The Times of India have both committed any help we need till the resolution of the case.
Anybody who would be able to handle media management, let us know.
Support From the Police
Senior IPS officers are also advising us on an ongoing basis.
Close follow-up by Trustees
One trustee/core team member will attend key hearings. The trustees have made two trips, and met with senior lawyers, media, IOCL managers, a politician and senior police officials in Delhi and Lucknow; they have visited the sessions court at Lakhimpur Khiri, met with the Public Prosecutor and got our lawyer included in the prosecuting team; and also met with the SP and Investigating Officer (IO).
We have got a copy of the chargesheet, which is being evaluated. Three bail applications have been rejected at the sessions court level and may now come to the Lucknow High court on appeal. As soon as this happens, they will be opposed by our lawyer in Lucknow.
The case is yet to start – more action will happen then.
It is extremely important to let the local prosecutor, judge and politicians know that the public eye is on them. Help us to do that. We plan a team of senior CXO level IIM alumnus to travel along with reporters, to attend the first hearing at Lakhimpur. Please write in to be part of this team. It will serve to bring out your firm’s corporate social responsibility as well
The above has been reproduced from the following website: http://syg.com/web/manjunath/?page_id=14