Several Indian Administrative Service officers in Karnataka have signed an online petition addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the death of their colleague DK Ravi, reports said on Thursday.
At least 13.58 lakh people have signed the online campaign, undertaken by a voluntary trust Uttishta Bharata, so far.
Ravi was found hanging from a ceiling fan on Monday at his Bengaluru apartment. The police has said it's "prima facie a case of suicide" and the Karnataka government has so far rejected the demand and asserted that the CID of the state police is capable of handling the investigation in the case.
Additional chief secretary (environment, forest and ecology) M Madana Gopal told Press Trust of India said the case should be handed over to the CBI for inquiry even as there are attempts from some quarters to assassinate the character of the IAS officer.
"As bureaucrats we all want to know what was the cause of his death," Gopal said.
Gopal, however, said in no way he was questioning and doubting the credentials of state-run investigating agencies.
"This does not mean we, IAS officers, are against and suspecting the abilities of the state investigative agencies. They are able, but this case is of different genre and should be given to an independent agency," the IAS officer said.
Ravi, who had earned a reputation for being upright, had recently taken over as joint commissioner of commercial taxes and was investigating real estate majors and big jewellers for alleged tax evasion and had conducted several big raids. He had also taken on the sand mafia as deputy commissioner of Kolar district.
Ravi was chasing builders in the city who had been evading taxes for years, one of his colleagues told HT on the condition of anonymity. The same source also said that Ravi had collected more than Rs 100 crore in outstanding tax dues from the builders.
Among the real estate companies he pursued were the Embassy Group, partly owned by state home minister KJ George, and Sobha Developers, which has close links with former minister DK Shivakumar, Ravi's colleagues told HT.
The call by the IAS officers for a CBI intervention has come amid similar demands by opposition parties as well as Ravi's family.
Sticking to their guns, opposition parties in the Karnataka assembly had continued their dharna for the second day on Wednesday demanding a CBI probe. The parents of the officer too sat in protest outside the assembly a day after they performed the last rites for their 35-year-old younger son.
On Thursday, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said that a probe by the central probe agency is crucial in the case as Ravi was fighting against vested interests.
"There are many questions that are arising in this matter as to why the officer took such an extreme step. IAS officer DK Ravi was fighting against vested interests and a CBI inquiry is important to bring out truth," said party spokesperson Nalin Kohli.
A delegation of BJP MPs led by Union law minister Sadananda Gowda met home minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on Wednesday and insisted for a CBI probe.
After meeting Singh, Gowda, a former chief minister of Karnataka, accused the Congress government in state of trying to "hush up" the case by making it look like a "suicide".
On Wednesday, lawyers too had staged a protest demanding that the Karnataka government handover the probe into the officer's death to the CBI.
(With PTI and ANI inputs)