By Syed Ali Mujtaba
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami has recommended transfer of the probe of custodial death of a father and son following alleged torture at the hands of the Sathankulam police station in Thoothukudi, to the 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 shocked everyone in the state and resulted in citizens 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.
Even though there was no Hindu- Muslim angle to it, but as both dead were Christians, Hindu- Christian angle cannot be ruled out. Since it has happened in Tamil Nadu, the communal angle may not be there but the caste animosity between the perpetrators of the crime and the victims of the crime cannot be ruled out. Definitely such kind of extreme torture cannot be meted for 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 were 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 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 hospitalized 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.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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