Custodial deaths in Tamil Nadu: Four cops arrested, people celebrate
A small yet substantial step in the long-drawn quest for justice for the father-son duo, who were brutally murdered in police custody last month, was undertaken with the arrest of four cops. The accused cops were arrested by the CB-CID team, appointed by Madras High Court for an impartial probe. Meanwhile, elated residents of Sathankulam celebrated by bursting crackers. Here's what went down.
Context: For opening shop beyond curfew, trader was held, beaten
The ordeal of 62-year-old P Jayaraj's family started on June 19, when he was picked up by cops of Sathankulam Police station for keeping his mobile shop open beyond the curfew time, imposed to handle the coronavirus crisis. Soon, his 31-year-old son J Bennix arrived at the station. Seeing his injured father, he fumed. He was arrested too. Unfortunately, their torture had just started!
Cops thrashed them the entire night, they later died
Throughout the night, Jayaraj and Bennix were thrashed with lathis and allegedly sodomized. The next day, the family got a chance to see them outside Sathankulam Government Hospital, where they were taken for treatment. The family said Jayaraj couldn't even stand, Bennix was bleeding profusely, and they changed their blood-soaked clothes at least thrice. On June 22, Bennix died, and hours later his father too breathed his last.
As horrifying details emerged, Madras High Court stepped in
The sheer brutality meted on the father-son duo emboldened voices demanding police reforms. Madras HC took suo motu cognizance and directed Kovilpatti Judicial Magistrate Bharathidasan to conduct a probe. On Sunday, he visited the station to record statements and gather evidence. But the hostility of the accused cops forced him to return without completing the probe. He was allegedly threatened too.
Special wing took over investigation, accused cops were arrested promptly
Subsequently, on Wednesday, July 1, the CB-CID, the special wing of the Criminal Investigation Department, took over the case. By night, sub-inspector Raghuganesh, who allegedly played the key role in the brutal torture, was arrested. Inspector Sridhar, sub-inspector Bala Krishnan, and head constable Murugan were arrested this morning. Although, constable Muthuraj was held too, his name wasn't mentioned in the FIR, reports TNM.
The initial FIRs were tweaked to add murder charge
Notably, the two initial FIRs, one each for deaths of Jayaraj and Bennix, didn't mention murder, but CB-CID, which is investigating the case until CBI takes over, changed the documents to include the serious charge. Confirming this, Shankar, Inspector General (CB-CID), told NDTV, "FIRs have been altered to add IPC Section 302. 12 special teams under IG and SP (CB-CID) are investigating all angles."
Meanwhile, state government ordered to protect sole eyewitness
On a related note, Madras HC has ordered the state government to provide protection to the woman constable who confirmed to Magistrate Bharathidasan that the father and son were thrashed. She told the magistrate there were bloodstains on lathis and a table, where the deceased were made to lie down. As part of the probe, the bereaved family and the locals were also interrogated.