CBI names nine policemen in charge sheet in Sathankulam custodial deaths case

Published : September 26, 2020 21:31 IST

P. Jeyaraj (right) and his son Fennix, who died on June 23 after they were beaten up by the police at Sathankulam. Photo: PTI

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is investigating the police brutality case at Sathankulam in Thoothukudi district in Tamil Nadu, has named nine policemen, including the Inspector and two Sub Inspectors of Sathankulam police station, as accused. The CBI took over the investigation on July 7 from the State CB-CID Police.

The erring policemen include the then Inspector of Sathankulam Police Station S. Sridhar, Sub Inspectors K. Balakrishnan and P. Raghu Ganesh, and Head Constables A.S. Murugan and A. Samidurai, and Constables A.M. Muthuraja, S. Chelladurai, Thomas Francis and S. Veilmuthu. Several sections of Indian Penal Code, including Section 302 (murder), were registered against them. Another accused, a Special Sub Inspector, had died.

The death of a father and son at the police station on June 19 after they were forcefully taken there for COVID-19 lockdown violations created a storm across the State forcing the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court to take up the case suo motu. Facing severe criticism, the Tamil Nadu government ordered a CBI investigation.

Both, timber trader P. Jayaraj (60) and his son J. Bennix (31), were arrested by the Sathankulam Police on the night of June 19 from their mobile phone shop for allegedly violating the pandemic lockdown restrictions. Police registered cases under Sections 188, 269, 294(b), 353 and 506(ii) of the IPC. Their relatives alleged that both were beaten brutally at the police station. Then the profusely bleeding duo were taken to the Sathankulam Magistrate who remanded them to judicial custody. Both were lodged at the Kovilpatti Sub Jail on June 20. Both died at Kovilpatti when they were in judicial custody, one on June 22 and the other on June 23. The deaths shocked the people of Sathankulam to rise in protest against what they called “police brutality”.

Initially, Sub-inspectors Balakrishnan and Pauldurai, who allegedly arrested and assaulted the victims, were placed under suspension while the other personnel in Sathankulam Police Station were transferred en masse. However, a spate of petitions before the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court led to a court-monitored probe. A CB-CID probe was ordered, which resulted in the arrest of the Inspector of Police too.

Later, a team from the CBI took over the investigation. It registered two cases against the custodial deaths. Its investigation exposed the police’s cover-up of the incident and obliteration of evidence. The nine-member CBI team, which was stationed at Madurai, also tested positive for COVID-19 virus and had to be treated. “Hence a delay in filing the charge sheet,” said a senior CBI officer. The investigation would continue further in order to unravel the real motive behind the double deaths, the officer added.

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