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Lawyer who exposed Vidarbha Irrigation Scam found dead in court premises


NAGPUR: The legal fraternity and district court security were shocked on Sunday after the body of senior advocate and social activist Shrikant Khandalkar, the man who helped expose the Vidarbha irrigation scam through public interest litigation (PIL), was found with the face smashed and other injuries behind the seven-storeyed building in district court’s Nyay Mandir premises. Police found a  suicide note by Khandalkar in his handwriting in his pocket.Khandalkar had been untraceable since Saturday. A missing complaint had been lodged at Sitabuldi police station by his wife. Khandalkar, who most probably ended his life by jumping off the building, claimed in the suicide note that he was suffering from a serious ailment, which compelled him to take the drastic decision.

He had been behind several PILs, including the one which exposed the Vidarbha irrigation scam, irregularities in spending by NMC, so-called scam of NIT’s land allotments, development of ancient temples at Ramtek, sand ghat scam and others. He had also been booked in a questionable case of extortion at Sitabuldi police station after one of his rivals lodged a complaint against him around a year ago.

Khandalkar had been seen by many on the third floor of Nyay Mandir on Saturday before he went missing. It’s learnt that Khandalkar was supposed to appear in a case for PDKV university at a court on the third floor. No one appears to have seen him after that.

Khandalkar’s wife Nishiganda saw a missed call from him at 4.55pm, while she was driving. Later, Nishiganda could not get through to her husband’s cell phone as it was switched off when she tried it at 5.11pm. When Khandalkar did not return till late in the night, the family approached Sitabuldi cops and filed a missing complaint.

Khandalkar’s close associate Kishor Ghughuskar said he had spoken to him twice in the afternoon. “There were several missed calls from him when I called back at 1.49pm. He wanted to know when was I returning. Later, I spoke to him at 4.43pm, when he sounded disturbed but did not divulge anything,” said Ghughuskar. He said Khandalkar was upset after an opponent had got him framed in a criminal case. “On an earlier occasion too, Khandalkar had sounded depressed, but we had managed to drag him out of the sad state of mind,” said Ghughuskar.

District bar association president Prakash Jaiswal said there had been a loud noise on Saturday evening at Nyay Mandir, but no one could trace it to anything. “Khandalkar was an amiable person. The entire legal fraternity is sad for him,” said Jaiswal.

The suicide came to light when a squad of the city police noticed the body during patrolling. Pieces of his broken spectacles were strewn near his body along with one of his shoes. Police found a handwritten suicide note in Marathi among the documents in his pocket, but did not find a mobile phone. The cops also tried to trace the window or terrace of the court building, especially the third floor, from where Khandalkar may have taken the plunge.

This episode once again exposes several security lapses at the court premises, including lack of proper illumination, despite several proposals. A demand to install closed circuit television (CCTV), taken up by former District Bar Association president Sudeep Jaiswal too has remained unattended, despite several representations.

Sadar police registered the case as accidental death. Initially, the body had created a flutter in the court premises, triggering a debate whether there was foul play in the legal activist’s death. Later in the evening, police said they had already found a handwritten note on Khandalkar, where he took responsibility for ending his life due to a prolonged illness. The handwriting on the note has been confirmed to be his by the family.

A senior police officer said that post mortem would be conducted on Monday at Mayo Hospital. “Police would rule out all possible angles behind the death, which seems to be a suicide at this stage,” said a senior officer

Advocate Shrikant Khandalkar dead body found in mysterious circumstances in District Court premises

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