Days after a father and son died in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi district due to alleged custodial torture, the Madras High Court (Madurai Bench) on Tuesday held that there was prima facie evidence to book the accused policemen under Section 302 of the IPC for murder.
“In our opinion, the ante-mortem injuries found on the bodies of the deceased, coupled with the averments in the report of the learned Judicial Magistrate No.1, Kovilpatti, especially the statement of Revathy, Head Constable, would be prima facie enough to alter the case to one under Section 302 IPC (murder) against the Sattankulam policemen who were actively involved in the investigation of the case,” a bench of Justices PN Prakash and B Pugalendhi said.
The court also ordered immediate handing over of the probe in the case to the CB-CID till the CBI took over.
The court found the evidence let in by the woman head constable Revathy crucial to the case. She had told the Judicial Magistrate of Kovilpatti, who conducted an inquiry, that trader Jayaraj and his son Benicks were tortured overnight at the Sattankulam police station and there were blood stains in the lathis and police station table. The court directed the Thoothukudi collector to provide immediate security cover to her and her family members to ensure their safety. Besides, it said she may be granted leave as there could be attempts to intimidate her to withdraw her statement.
The court also feared there could be disappearance of evidence as “they were emboldened enough to even intimidate the judicial officer to put spokes in the wheel of his enquiry.”
The court said it would be open to Tamil Nadu government to review the idea of entrusting the matter to the CBI, if it was satisfied with the progress of the CB-CID probe.
Meanwhile, the Judicial Magistrate in his report too the High Court said the police even refused, at first, produce the lathis. In fact, senior officers created an ambiance of intimidation during the inquiry and the policemen were non-cooperative. Though the CCTV memory card had space, the recordings of the fateful day were not available and the system was set in a way the footage would be deleted the following day, he said.
Meanwhile, the government transferred the Thoothukudi SP Arun Balagopalan and placed him on compulsory wait. It appointed in his place S Jeyakumar, a decision that drew flak from DMK president MK Stalin since the officer was an accused in a multi-crore gutkha scam. Besides, the DMK leader also criticised the appointment of S Murugan as Inspector General of Police (South Zone) since the latter was facing a case of sexual harassment filed by one of his colleagues.