Shankar Kistaiya, also spelled as Shankar Kistayya, was an accused in Mahatma Gandhi's assassination case. He was sentenced to life imprisonment by the lower court, but was acquitted by the High Court on appeal, given that he denied his involvement, the co-accused retracted their statements, and on the basis of the "benefit of the doubt".
Shankar Kistayya was a Shudra Hindu born in a carpenter family. He was illiterate, held many temporary jobs, moved to Pune where he was rickshaw puller. He met Digambar Ramchandra Badge who employed him as his domestic servant and did jobs such as wash clothes. Kistaiya also served as the courier to move weapons and firearms from Badge shop to Hindu customers fighting a rebellion in the Hyderabad State.
His mother tongue was Telugu. Shankar used to help Badge as a domestic servant as well as an assistant in Badge's Shop.
Role in assassination
Shankar Kistaiya, the prosecution case claimed was an active participant and helper in the plot that assassinated Gandhi in January 1948. He travelled several times to Mumbai and Delhi, including in days before the assassination. Badge and Kistaiya, along with Godse and Apte, went around Mumbai to collect funds to buy the pistol, ammunitions and airfare Godse and Apte needed to reach Delhi to execute the plot, all in the name of Hindu movement to free the Hyderabad State from the Muslim rule. Shankar was also accused to have done reconnaissance of Gandhi's movements and Birla House to help with the planning.
He was one of the two volunteers grenade thrower during the first attempt at Gandhi's assassination on January 20 1948, a plan that failed. He also was one of those who pre-tested the pistols in a forest, to ensure that they worked properly in the days before the second attempt at the assassination. Kistaiya was arrested on February 6.
Shankar Kishtiya was entrusted the role of back up for Badge on the failed attempt of 20 January. After the failed attempt he had followed Badge out of Birla House and had returned with him to Pune. He was arrested from Pune.
The lower trial court held that Shankar Kistaiya was an integral part of the group and sentenced him to life imprisonment, but he was acquitted by the High Court on 22 June 1949 in response to his appeal.
- G.D. Khosla (1965), The Murder of the Mahatma, Chief Justice of Punjab, Jaico Publishers, pages 15, 25-27
- G.D. Khosla (1965), The Murder of the Mahatma, Chief Justice of Punjab, Jaico Publishers, pages 40-42
- G.D. Khosla (1965), The Murder of the Mahatma, Chief Justice of Punjab, Jaico Publishers, pages 28-32, 38
- Das P.K., Pramod Kumar Das (2007). Famous Murder Trials: Covering More Than 75 Murder Cases in India. Universal Law Publishing. pp. 25–26. ISBN 8175346051. Retrieved 6 December 2013.