The best path is the path toward righteousness. Whether one has to face setbacks and miseries because of it, this journey never fails to uphold the truth and just. Such was the journey of Shanmugam Manjunath, who stood for a right cause and sacrificed his life in the name of nation in November 2005.
Shanmugam was a grade A sales officer in Indian Oil Corporation Ltd, who was shot dead for closing a corrupt petrol station in Lakhimpur Kheri, UP. This incident left many IIM and IIT students in rage thus leading them to form The Manjunath Shanmugam Trust.
Manjunath completed his initial schooling from Kendriya Vidyalaya, BEML Nagar, Kolar Gold Fields, Karnataka. Later on, he did his Computer Science Engineering degree from Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering, Mysore, and an MBA from Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow.
As part of his duty, Manjunath gave notice to two petrol stations and ordered them to be sealed for selling adulterated petrol. For a month, his orders were followed but later on they opened the station again. This infuriated Manjunath and he decided to conduct a surprise raid on 19 November, 2005.
Not having heard from his son in last three days, Manjunath’s father sent a message to him the very same day asking about his well being. There was no response because Manjunath was already shot dead in the town of Gola Gokarannath in Lakhimpur Kheri. His body, riddled with at least six bullets, was found in the backseat of his car, which was driven by two employees of the petrol pump. Both were arrested and the owner Pawan Kumar Mittal was arrested along with seven other on 23rd November.
There was a lot of spotlight on the case and it was kept alive by fellow mates of IIM. Fortunately, The Manjunath Trust took the case with utter responsibility and followed up diligently. The trust lawyer IB Singh, public prosecutor Sri Chandramohan Singh, trustees, volunteers and supporters worked hard to ensure quick justice.On 24 March, 2007 nearly 16 months after the incident all eight were found guilty by Lakhimpur Kheri Sessions court.
The main accused Monu Mittal and seven others were convicted of murder by sessions court Judge, Lakhimpur Kheri. Petrol pump owner Pawan Kumar Mittal, the main accused in the sensational murder, was sentenced to death by the Sessions Court, while the other seven accused were given life imprisonment on 26 March, 2007.
The convicts appealed in High Court where on 12 December, 2009, Allahabad High Court carried out death sentence to prime culprit Pawan Kumar. The five others were given life imprisonment as well but the two other were acquitted by the court.
The convicts appealed in Supreme court on 2011. The matter came up for hearing, with the first hearing starting on 19 November 2014. This ironically, was Manjunath’s 9th death anniversary. On 11 March 2015, the Supreme Court dismissed all the convicts’ appeals, holding that the prosecution had proved the chain of events, needed for a case of circumstantial evidence. They will continue serving their life sentences.
The trust “The Manjunath Shanmugam Trust” was registered in 2006 and it’s main objective was to get justice for Manjunath. Now it focuses on improving governance in Indian public life.
The trust runs first right to information National Right To Information Act Helpline. The number is (080) 666-00-999 and 0-97181-00180 and is accessible from anywhere in India. The 12*7 (10 am – 8 pm) multi-language helpline, serviced by professionally trained call-center agents, guides citizens through the features of this powerful tool against corruption.
Later, a movie named Manjunath was released, written and directed by Sandeep A Varma based on the inspiring life of Manjunath Shanmugam.