Shanmugam Manjunath (23 February 1978 – 19 November 2005) was a Sales Officer (grade A officer) for the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) who was murdered for sealing a corrupt petrol station in Lakhimpur Kheri, UP. This incident inspired several students at IIM, IIT and other institutes culminating with the IIM students setting up the “The Manjunath Shanmugam Trust”.
Manjunath did his initial schooling from Kendriya Vidyalaya, BEML Nagar, Kolar Gold Fields, Karnataka. He finished his 10th in 1993 and 12th std in science stream in 1995 from the same school. 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.
Manjunath (MBA graduate from IIM Lucknow) while working for the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) in Lucknow, he had ordered two petrol pumps at Lakhimpur Kheri sealed for selling adulterated fuel for three months. When the pump started operating again a month later, Manjunath decided to conduct a surprise raid around 19 November 2005.
Having not heard from his son for three days, at around 9 that night, his father, M Shanmughan, had sent an SMS: “How are you?”. There was no reply because that very night, during his inspection, Manjunath had been 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 own car, which was being driven by two employees of the petrol pump. Both were arrested and the main accused, pump-owner Pawan Kumar (‘Monu’) Mittal, was held on 23 November along with seven others.
Manjunath’s death came close on the heels of the assassination of Satyendra Dubey (27 November 1973 – 27 November 2003), suspected to have been murdered for similar reasons (fighting corruption). Following the murder, there was immense media spotlight on the case. S. Manjunath’s batchmates from IIM Lucknow (where he was affectionately called machan) also kept the story alive.
Fortunately, the Manjunath Shanmugam Trust took up the case with dogged determination. The Trust lawyer Mr. IB Singh, the Public Prosecutor Sri Chandramohan Singh, trustees, volunteers and supporters worked hard to ensure quick justice. On 24 March 2007, nearly sixteen months after the murder, all eight accused were found guilty by the Lakhimpur Kheri Sessions Court. The main accused, Monu Mittal and 7 accomplices were convicted of murder by Sessions 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 challenged the Sessions Court’s verdict in Allahabad High Court. On 12 December 2009, Allahabad High Court commuted death sentence of prime convict Pawan Kumar Mittal to life imprisonment. The high court upheld the life sentence of five others but acquitted two other accused – Harish Misra and Sanjay Awasthi.
The convicts appealed in 2011. The matter has come up for hearing, with the first hearing starting on 19 November 2014. This ironically, is 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.
Manjunath Shanmugam Trust
A pan IIM initiative, “The Manjunath Shanmugam Trust” was registered on 23 February 2006, Manjunath’s birth anniversary. With immediate objectives of fighting the case, they have a broader agenda of improving governance in Indian public life.
The Trust runs India’s first 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.