The judges in the Supreme Court had finished hammering out for delivery the next day a landmark verdict in the battle against corruption, when a thousand kilometres away, another anti-graft crusader was beaten to death.

An activist shouts slogans during a protest in New Delhi March 4, 2011. REUTERS/B Mathur/FilesNiyamat Ansari’s killing on Wednesday night in the poor eastern state of Jharkhand came days after he exposed large scale embezzlement of funds meant for India’s flagship social security programme.

A recent spate of corruption scandals has sparked off outrage among Indians and the newfound zeal against graft has been reflected in the Supreme Court’s tough stance. But the killing shows, these measures may be just curing the symptoms, not the ills.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court axed P.J. Thomas, the country’s anti-graft chief, over his involvement in a corruption case, in a verdict that was widely seen as a bold step towards cleaning up India’s image as a corruption-ridden country.

The top court was following up on a series of strong observations on corruption in high places, including on the role of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a multi-billion telecoms licensing corruption case where a minister was arrested.