Custodial Death in Tamil Nadu: CM Recommends Probe by CBI

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The custodial deaths of P Jayaraj (62) and his son J Fennix (33) have sent shock-waves throughout the nation.

Same police officers at the same police station are alleged to have beaten up a dozen people two weeks ago

Syed Ali Mujtaba | Clarion India

CHENNAI – Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami has recommended that the case of alleged custodial deaths at Sathankulam police station in Thoothukudi be handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

The chief minister said the state government will seek permission from the Madurai bench of Madras High Court to transfer the case to CBI. The custodial deaths of P Jayaraj (62) and his son J Fennix (33) have sent shock-waves throughout the nation. Now people are demanding strict action against the policemen involved at the Sathankulam police station in Thoothukudi.

It is certain that the father and son have not been beaten to death for opening their mobile shop in violation of the curfew norms and there could be other reasons that can be seen. Since the deceased were Christians, a Hindu-Christian angle cannot be ruled out. Moreover, caste animosity between the perpetrators of the crime and the victims is also there. Definitely such kind of extreme torture cannot be meted for a frivolous crime like curfew violation.

The incident took place on June 19 when Jayaraj and Fennix were detained and later booked in Sathankulam in Thoothukudi district for allegedly violating lockdown norms by keeping their mobile phone shop open for longer hours.

Their actual crime was defying the night curfew.  They were kept in a police station for two days and on June 21 remanded in judicial custody and lodged in Kovilpatti jail in the town.

Their family of Jayaraj and Fennix has alleged that both were brutally thrashed and subjected to extreme torture by police personnel while in police custody. They were also brutally tortured in the jail.

The duo were admitted to Kovilpatti government hospital on June 22 after continuous bleeding due to severe external and internal injuries from alleged lock up torture. In the late evening on June 22 Fennix died and his father Jayaraj died in the wee hours on June 23.

Following the deaths, the Thoothukudi District Judge ordered a preliminary judicial inquiry into the incident and submitted its report to the Madurai bench of Madras High Court on June 25.

The district judge described the incident as “disturbing information of custodial torture,” and sought further directions regarding a detailed probe into the alleged torture and custodial deaths.

In the preliminary judicial inquiry it was found that, Sub-Inspectors Balakrishnan and Raghu Ganesh as have led the torture, with Inspector Sridhar playing “an active role.” The same three officers are named in the deaths of Jeyaraj and Bennix.

The preliminary judicial inquiry has also found that nearly a dozen people had reported being beaten up at the same police station two weeks ago and by the same police officers. Of them, one died later and two were hospitalised following intervention by judicial officers.

The three police officers whose names are mentioned in the report have been suspended. A volunteer group called ‘Friends of Police’ is mentioned in the report assisting the ‘torture squad.’  The role of Sathankulam Judicial Magistrate P Saravanan, who cleared the custodial remand of at least one of the dozen, including that of the deceased P Jeyaraj, 62, and his son J Bennix, 32, is also mentioned in the report with a request to probe his role.

This human rights violation is unique as it has taken place under the shadow of Covid-19 and the cause of it is defiance of its curfew norms that is avenged by beating to death two innocent people.

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Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist is based in Chennai. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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