An RTI activist in Mumbai was shot dead in his home at Vakola Saturday evening. Many of his applications had targeted a former corporator over alleged illegal constructions, police said. Police are probing the former corporator who, they said, had received an order from the Lokayukta hours before the murder that four of his properties would be demolished based on a complaint filed by the activist.
Bhupendra Vira, 60, was at home watching TV around 9 pm when the killer fired from outside the house, the bullet piercing the right temple. Police said that the shooter fired at close range and at an angle between the open main door and the bedroom, where Vira was sitting. “The bullet shot exited the other side of the head and has been recovered by the police,” a forensic expert said.
Vira’s wife, who was in the kitchen, didn’t hear the shot and was told by a neighbour passing by that there was blood in the bedroom. “When she checked she found her husband in a pool of blood,” said Virendra Mishra, zonal deputy commissioner of police. Vira was declared dead at V N Desai Hospital. A case of murder was registered in Vakola police station.
Officials said preliminary investigations showed Vira’s petition had led to the demolition of several illegal constructions owned by a former corporator, Razza Khan, who has got himself admitted to V N Desai Hospital. “We are waiting for his discharge. Meanwhile, we are probing if there were any other persons with a motive,” said an officer. But the superintendent of the hospital Dr Ashok Bapu denied that Khan had been admitted to the hospital.
Khan’s mobile was switched off when The Indian Express tried to contact him.
Police are probing six other persons. Vira turned into an RTI activist in 2010. Prior to that he ran a shop and was a partner in a steel company owned by his family.
Khan, of Congress (S), was corporator from 1985 to 1992. “The dispute between Khan and Vira has been going on for five to six years. It is suspected that a gala (shop) belonging to Vira had been grabbed by Khan. Vira started filing complaints against the illegal structures of Khan which led to demolition of couple of structures including Khan’s office,” said a political leader requesting anonymity.
The leader further said that since Khan didn’t budge, Vira filed the complaints of the old illegal structures of Khan. “It had led to lot of enmity between them; the illegal structures are more than 20 years old.”
BMC officials confirmed a few structures including Khan’s office were demolished few months back by H (East) ward office. “Also, following the complaints from Vira, the BMC had issued around 40 notices to 100 illegal structures which are mostly industrial galas (shops). Though these illegal structures are more than 20 years old, they have not been declared a slum and thus all structures are illegal,” an official said. The official said recently they have received a letter from the Lokayaukta seeking a report on the complaints filed by Vira. “The report will be submitted soon,” said the official.
Former information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi wrote to the State Chief Information Commissioner Ratnakar Gaikwad asking him to order release of information from all public offices where Vira’s RTIs are pending. Gandhi also asked the CIC to ask for speedy police enquiry and protection to Vira’s family.