Following widespread outrage over the recent deaths of a father and son in Thoothukudi due to alleged custodial torture, the Tamil Nadu Government on Sunday decided to hand over the probe in the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The Government also belatedly suspended Sridhar, the Inspector of Sathankulam police station, where trader Jayaraj and his son Benicks were allegedly meted out overnight third degree treatment before being remanded in judicial custody.
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami told journalists in Salem mobile phone traders Jayaraj and Benicks were booked in a case relating to closure of their shop (during the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown) and lodged in Kovilpatti sub-jail and susbsequently died at the Kovilpatti Government Hospital.
“The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has taken suo motu cognisance of it. When the case is heard next, the Government will inform the court that it has decided to hand over the probe in the case to the CBI. With the consent of the court, the case will be transferred to the CBI,” he said.
The case had attained global attention and even compared to the death of George Floyd in the US. After the opposition DMK had announced a compensation of Rs25 lakh to the family, the ruling AIADMK had also followed suit with a similar compensation. DMK president MK Stalin had alleged the ruling party had offered the compensation only because it was at fault. He also demanded the arrest of those involved in the case saying merely suspending the erring policemen was not adequate.
Telltale signs of torture
Meanwhile, entries made in the prison records when the father and son were taken to the Kovilpatti sub-jail showed there were telltale signs of police torture on their bodies. The entries, which were selectively made available to the media, said both Jayaraj and Benicks bore “multiple beating marks in the glueteal region”. This substantiates the Free Press Journal report published on February 24, which said the police had inserted lathi into the anus of the two while in overnight custody. The prison records said there were injury marks on the wrists and legs of the two persons, which were also swollen. Besides, Jayaraj was suffering from hypertension and diabetes.
Soon after they were lodged at the prison, they developed health complications and were taken to the Kovilpatti Government Hospital where the father and son died within hours.