The Crime-Branch CID on Thursday arrested three police personnel on Thursday in connection with the custodial deaths of Jayaraj and Bennix in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi district.
Jeyaraj and Bennicks, who had been arrested for “violating” lockdown norms over the business hours of their cell phone shop, died at a hospital in Kovilpatti on June 23 while in judicial custody. The police are accused of allegedly torturing father and sone at the Sathankulam police station.
The NewsMinute reported Inspector Sridhar, Sub Inspector Bala Krishnan and head constable Murugan were arrested on Thursday morning. Sub Inspector Raghu Ganesh had been arrested late Wednesday night shortly after Tamil Nadu Law Minister Law Minister C Ve Shanmugam assured that the government would ensure “highest punishment” to those responsible for the custodial deaths.
TNM reports that Constable Muthuraj has been held by the police but his name has not been added to the first information report (FIR) yet.
The Crime-Branch CID on Wednesday slapped murder charges on six people, including the two sub-inspectors, as it took over the probe into the case, amid intense judicial scrutiny and nation-wide outrage.
Within hours of taking over the probe on the directions of the Madras High Court, the specialised investigating agency altered the FIRs to include murder charges against SIs Raghu Ganesh and Balakrishnan, as many constables and members of Friends of Police (volunteers) of the Sathankulam police station, CB-CID sources told the Press Trust of India.
The murder charges capped dramatic developments both in the court and outside where a woman head constable witness to the happenings told a Magisterial probe that the two traders were thrashed an entire night by the other police personnel at Sathankulam station where they were detained over alleged lockdown violations late last month.
The death of the father-son duo on June 23, saw an outpouring of anger with people from various walks of life condemning the “police brutality”, and also drew the attention of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) which issued notices to the state police chief and Thoothukudi Superintendent of Police, seeking a detailed report.
The probe into the case has been transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by the state government, though the court ordered the CB-CID to take over it till the central agency handled it, fearing evidence may disappear.
Top Tamil film star Rajinikanth described the deaths as “brutal killing,” and slammed the alleged inappropriate behaviour of some policemen with a Judicial Magistrate at the Sathankulam police station when he conducted an enquiry.
Incidentally, the Sathankulam police station is now under the Revenue Department control, seen as an “unprecedented” development so far in the country, after the high court issued an order after the conduct of the local police personnel came under intense scrutiny.
In her statement to the Judicial Magistrate earlier, Head Constable Revathy said the personnel at the Sathankulam police station thrashed Jeyaraj and his son the whole night there and lathis used for allegedly assaulting them and a table carried blood stains.
The two persons were “beaten up the entire night by police personnel there (Sathankulam PS) using lathis... due to this there were blood stains on the lathis and a table and she said they (stains) should be collected immediately as they (policemen) could try to erase them,” the report of the magistrate said.
Mentioning her statement in a four-page report to the Madras High Court Madurai Bench, the JM probing the deaths said the constable feared receiving threat if she revealed the facts.
He further submitted that Revathy did not sign on her statement immediately and did so after a long time upon being assured of her safety. Her statement was “recorded carefully”.
The Madras High Court, which has taken up the matter of the death of the duo, had on Tuesday transferred the probe to the CB-CID under DSP Anil Kumar.
Officials led by Kumar conducted enquiries with the family members of the deceased on Wednesday, besides in the locality where the duo ran their cellphone shop.
CB-CID sleuths also visited the Sathankulam police station.
The FIRs filed earlier were altered to include murder charges under Indian Penal Code section 302 against the four police personnel and the two Friends of Police.
Meanwhile, the NHRC said it has sought a report from the police officers, which has to include reports of inquest, post-mortem, medical treatment record, magisterial inquiry and health screening report of both victims, within 6 weeks.
Law Minister Shanmugam said this was not a usual lock-up death and since allegations have been made against a number of persons like police personnel, jail authorities and government doctor, “there is a responsibility before the Tamil Nadu government to find answers and punish the culprits.”
He also slammed the opposition DMK and its chief MK Stalin, charging them with trying to politicising the matter.
(With PTI inputs)