Lucknow, March 23: All eight men accused in the murder of Manjunath Shanmugam — the upright Indian Oil officer shot dead for cracking down on adulteration of petrol — were found guilty a month after the day he would have turned 29.
Sixteen months after the IIM graduate was killed in November 2005, a court in Lakhimpur Kheri, 150 km from here, handed the guilty verdict to the accused, who include Pawan Kumar Mittal alias Manu, the son of the owner of Mittal Automobiles that had been mixing the oil.
The sentence will be announced on March 26.
“We are fully satisfied with the judgment. We are thankful to everyone who has supported us during the trial,” Manjunath’s lawyer I.B. Singh said.
His father, M. Shanmugam, said from Karnataka they were happy with the verdict but the guilty should be given capital punishment to set an example.
The eight have been found guilty of murder, conspiracy to murder and destruction of evidence.
Manjunath’s friends from IIM Lucknow — he was from the 2003 batch — say he had shown them how one person could take on the powerful. Sushant Pote, a student at IIM Lucknow, said: “Not a single management course can teach us what this incident has taught many of our generation.”
But it’s not a lesson everyone has learnt, not in Lakhimpur Kheri, the known hotbed of petroleum adulteration, where the young sales officer died because he was doing his job honestly. Supporters of the accused set upon journalists on the court premises today, roughing them up and trying to smash cameras, blaming them for the verdict. Two journalists were injured.
Other than mastermind Manu Mittal, the seven accused are his relatives Rakesh Anand and Vivek Sharma, who were taking Manjunath’s body to be dumped in his own car but were caught by police, employees Devesh Agnihotri, Sanjay Awasthi and Harish Mishra and acquaintances Shivkesh Giri and Rajesh Verma.
Giri and Verma are accused of providing arms for the murder.
Manjunath, in his first job after graduating from IIM, was shot dead inside Mittal Automobiles at Gola Gokarn in Lakhimpur Kheri on November 19, 2005, after he threatened to seal the pump for selling adulterated fuel.
The murder exposed deep inroads made by the oil mafia in the retail business in Uttar Pradesh. The IOC has around 1,200 petrol dealers in Uttar Pradesh. According to information available with the state petrol dealers’ association, there are about 2,200 dealers of the four major oil companies.
The price difference between petrol, diesel and kerosene makes adulteration an easy way to earn big profits. Petrol costs around Rs 47 a litre and diesel around Rs 33 while kerosene is available for Rs 10 to Rs 11 a litre in ration shops.
Dharmendra Senger, who had taught Manjunath at IIM, said many more like him were needed to fight corruption.