Lucknow: The death sentence of the main
convict in the murder of young Indian Oil executive Manjunath
four years back was today commuted to life by the Allahabad
High Court which felt the offence was not rarest of rare case.
A two-member Lucknow Bench of the High Court while giving
reprieve to Pawan Kumar Mittal also upheld the life sentence
of five others in the case but acquitted two other accused
--Harish Misra and Sanjay Awasthi, who were given life term.
Manjunath(27, a sales officer with Indian Oil Corporation
and a graduate from Indian Institute of Management, Lucknow,
paid with his life for exposing an alleged petrol adulteration
The bench comprising Justice K K Misra and Justice D V
Sharma pronounced the verdict on appeals by the convicts
against the Kheri sessions court judgement passed on March 23,
Manjunath`s father Shanmugham said a decision on
challenging the commutation of death penalty will be taken by
the trust formed after the murder of his son.
I B Singh, lawyer for the Trust, said the High Court
verdict was not a setback to the Trust. "Our main object was
to get the accused convicted and we have achieved our goal by
getting them convicted and getting him sentenced to life,"
Manjunath had exposed an adulteration racket at an IOC
petrol pump in Lakhimpur Kheri that was owned by the prime
accused Pawan Kumar Mittal, who was also known as Monu. He was
shot dead on November 19, 2005 when he reached the petrol pump
to collect samples of adulterated petrol that was being
allegedly sold from the outlet.
A chargesheet in the case was filed against the accused
on February 15, 2006.
Delivering the verdict, the Kheri judge had said the
murder of Manjunath was a pre-planned one because the weapons
used in the crime and recovered from the possession of the
accused belonged to persons residing in different localities,
who had gathered at the site to allegedly eliminate the
The accused had placed Manjunath`s body on the rear seat
of a car and deputed two of their associates to dispose off
the body in a canal in Sitapur, according to the prosecution.
The accused ran out of luck after a police team on a
routine early morning patrol duty spotted the car and noticed
that its occupants were behaving abnormally as the car went
past the police team, it said.
This left the patrol party suspicious and they chased
the car and intercepted it after a hot pursuit. Police
recovered the bullet-riddled body of Manjunath and arrested
the two car occupants, who then led the police to the other
The High Court in its judgement said, "the appellants
except Harish Mishra and Sanjay Awasthi shall be detained to
serve out their sentences imposed by the trial court as well
as by this court".
The Court also dismissed the Capital sentence Reference
sent by the sessions court to the high court for confirmation
of the death sentence awarded to Mittal.