A year after the death of Indian Administrative Service officer DK Ravi in Bengaluru, the Central Bureau of Investigation still has to file its final report at the local court. The bureau is likely to submit that Ravi committed suicide having found no postmortem or forensic evidence to indicate otherwise, say news reports.

On the evening of March 16, 2015, Ravi’s wife found him dead inside their Bengaluru apartment, his body hanging from a ceiling fan. The police said at the outset that prima facie the case seemed to be one of suicide. Yet, 34-year-old Ravi’s death triggered national outrage and provoked protests and bandhs across the Kolar, Mandya and Tumakuru belt in Karnataka.

Ravi had earned a reputation as an honest officer who had taken on the sand mafia in Kolar, after which he was transferred to Bengaluru where he had been serving at the additional commissioner for commercial taxes. Soon after his death, speculation that he had been murdered for standing up to powerful lobbies and allegations of foul play surfaced.

Political parties got into the fray immediately with the opposition in the state accusing the Congress government of failing to protect Ravi in his drive to bring tax defaulters to book. Ravi’s case was handled initially by the Karnataka Criminal Investigation Department but after pressure from Ravi’s family, friends and supporters, demands by the political opposition and media campaigns asking for justice for Ravi, Chief Minister Siddaramiah ordered a CBI probe.

Twists and turns

Days after Ravi’s death, the JDS alleged that Ravi had been transferred to Bengaluru from Kolar at the behest of the sand mafia. The party released an audio tape of a purported telephone conversation between a member of the legislative assembly in Kolar and an official working with Ravi, with the former pressurizing the official to release seized sand trucks. Siddaramaiah responded to the JDS saying that Ravi has been transferred at the request of his family. Ravi’s father-in-law refuted suggestions that there were problems between his family and Ravi’s.

Meanwhile, selective leaks from the police on the case further muddied the waters. Reports emerged of Ravi having sent a number of messages to a woman who was also an IAS officer suggesting a one-sided love affair that had driven Ravi to suicide. The Karnataka High Court came down hard on the CID and the state police, who had been handling the investigation up to that point, asking them how the messages had reached the media when Ravi’s phone was in the custody of the investigating bodies.

Within the police, there was discontent over the leaks and the speculation it led to. Police officers to the Hindustan Times that everyone had jumped the gun in speculating that Ravi’s text messages indicated that he committed suicide. They also said that the lack of external injuries on Ravi’s body was only one aspect of the post mortem that neither confirmed nor ruled out murder.

The CBI took over the case a week after Ravi’s death and two months later the investigating agency reported that Ravi had been involved in an “improper” real estate deal. The bureau found that Ravi and a partner borrowed money to buy 50 acres of land to start their own real estate venture, a deal that never took off because acquisition of the land wasn’t cleared. The CBI said that financial pressure to return the money for this failed deal might have driven Ravi to suicide.

Despite the cacophony in the initial weeks after the IAS officer’s death, a year later it’s a case that has been largely forgotten. The case was invoked in news reports again last month when another IAS officer and Ravi’s batchmate N Harish was found dead in his house in Chennai. Police reports suggest that Harish died by choking on food while inebriated. However, hundreds of people reportedly arrived at Ravi’s Tumakuru village this week to pay their respects while his parents and brother conducted the death anniversary rituals.